High School Sports

Independence High names Justin Hardin as football coach

Former Providence High football coach Justin Hardin, shown with the Panthers in July, was named football coach at Independence on Thursday.
Former Providence High football coach Justin Hardin, shown with the Panthers in July, was named football coach at Independence on Thursday. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Independence High athletics director Kelly Lewis on Thursday announced Justin Hardin as the school’s new football coach.

Hardin, who coached at Providence last season, is the Patriots’ third coach in seven years. Joe Evans left the program this month. Evans’ record was 20-6 in two seasons at Independence, including 12-1 in 2014.

Hardin will be on Independence’s campus Friday to meet the team. The school will host a reception for him in its auxiliary gym at 6:30 p.m.

Independence’s record is 191-27 since the start of the 2000 season. The Patriots won seven straight state championships from 2000 to 2006 and reached the 2007 state championship game. During that run under coaches Tom Knotts and Bill Geiler, the Patriots won 109 straight games.

Hardin, a 2004 graduate of The Citadel, coached at Providence for two seasons. His record was 18-9 overall, 10-4 last season, when the Panthers reached the third round of the N.C. 4AA playoffs. Before coaching at Providence, Hardin was 14-11 in two seasons at Weddington High in Union County.

After school on Thursday, Hardin, Providence athletics director Charles Lansing and three Providence assistant coaches met with more than 70 Panthers football players.

“We spent a lot of time with our kids today,” Lansing said. “We’re all surprised and really sad because of how many good things coach Hardin did here, and how he and his staff had us heading in the right direction in terms of football. We’ll make sure we’ll get people in here to continue that trend.”

Lansing said the school will advertise immediately for a new coach, but won’t rush finding Hardin’s replacement.

“We’re not going to let this slow us down at all,” he said. “I still believe our kids can win and we compete for championships in every sport, football included. We’ll get somebody in here that keeps it that way.”

Hardin was unavailable for comment.

There are now three head coaching jobs open in Mecklenburg County: Ardrey Kell, Charlotte Country Day and Providence. Ardrey Kell’s Adam Hastings resigned to become coach at Providence Day, where Justin Hardin’s father, Bruce, stepped down to take an advisory position. Charlotte Country Day coach Bob Witman resigned.

Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr

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