A chance at vengeance is what the Hopewell Titans football team will get this Saturday when they travel south on Interstate 77 to take on the Panthers of Providence High.
Last year's game between these two teams was a classic that ended with Providence knocking through a 23-yard field goal late in the game to sink the Titans 41-38. The Titans jumped out to a 21-7 lead in the first half before the Panthers came storming back.
While the meeting between these two teams is not a classic rivalry in the Charlotte area, emotions are sure to run high due to last year's drama.
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The Titans lost a lot of leadership from last year's team, but the team returns some key players who have varsity experience.
The starting quarterback, senior Cole Blythe, started and played the entire game against the Panthers last season. He saw a lot of action while senior starter Justin Avery was dealing with injuries.
"Anytime you get experience, it's big," said Titans head coach Chris Rust. "That's really helped him out this year, and he knows what's expected of him."
Blythe threw for seven touchdowns and 722 yards last season. And Rust sees good things down the road for his starter.
"If he keeps getting better each game, we'll be fine," he said. "He's showing some leadership ability, which is what we need at this point."
The Titans, who have won both of their games so far this season, will try to control the clock a little better this year with help from senior running back Dondre Lewis-Freeman, who showed flashes of greatness last week during Hopewell's 27-12 win over Myers Park.
If things keep coming together and the Titans can play better defense, Rust thinks his Titans can hang with anybody.
"We've got some work to do, but I feel pretty good," he said. "We've got to cut down some mental mistakes, but they're working hard."
The Panthers come into this year's matchup a bit down on their luck. They lost their first two games, but head coach Randy Long hopes his team can start to find some consistency.
"We've suffered two tough losses," he said. "We're in a trench and we've got to dig ourselves out of it. I know we're close to being a good team. We've just got to fight through these tough times and get better."
Providence is hopeful that last week's 27-7 win at North Mecklenburg will be a good start.
One spot where the Panthers don't have to worry is at the quarterback position. Senior Chauncey Concepcion, an all-conference selection as a junior last year, looks to lead a young offense.
"I don't think (our youth) is hindering us," said Long. "We just need to get through these early-season mistakes."
With lots of new faces on both sides of the ball, Long knows these teams will look a little different than they did in last year's classic. He expects a fight from Rust's team, but thinks the character of his players will start to shine.
"I'm sure they're going to play us tough again this year," he said. "We just have to play better than we've been playing, and not become our own worst enemy."