High School Sports

With plan in place, fast-starting Providence Day gets boost from major-college recruits

Providence Day standouts (left to right) Elijiah Brown, Porter Rooks and Jacolbe Cowan have helped lead the Chargers to a 4-1 start this season.
Providence Day standouts (left to right) Elijiah Brown, Porter Rooks and Jacolbe Cowan have helped lead the Chargers to a 4-1 start this season. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

When coach Adam Hastings left Ardrey Kell High after the 2014 season, he came to Providence Day with a plan.

“I thought this place could be a national-type power,” he said. “We’re not there yet, but I really think we’re headed in the right direction.”

This season, the Chargers are 4-1. They have a home game Friday night at 7 with Cannon School, led by former Carolina Panthers fan favorite Brad Hoover. Providence Day averages 37 points, the best for the school in 17 years. As a result, the Chargers are off to their best start since the 2012 team reached the state final.

A big part of that success is because of three major-college recruits who anchor the Chargers’ offense and defense:

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Providence Day defensive tackle Elijiah Brown, left, during practice on Tuesday. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

▪ Elijiah Brown is a 6-foot-4, 290-pound senior defensive tackle who has committed to Duke. He has 42 tackles, third on the team behind Cole Brown (52) and Adam Hardy (43). Brown also has four sacks.

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Providence Day lineman Jacolbe Cowan, right, had three sacks against nationally ranked Charlotte Christian last week. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

▪ Jacolbe Cowan is a 6-5, 250-pound sophomore defensive end who is a considered a 5-star college recruit (5-stars are considered elite). He has more than 20 Division I scholarship offers, including Georgia, Florida State and Louisville. Cowan has 31 tackles, a team-high seven sacks and two forced fumbles.

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Providence Day wide receiver Porter Rooks during practice on Tuesday, September 19, 2017. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

▪ Porter Rooks is a 6-foot-1, 180-pound sophomore wide receiver who is also considered a 5-star college recruit. Rooks, who received an offer from Louisville in eighth grade, has more than 20 Division I scholarship offers, including Louisville, Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and North Carolina. Rooks has caught 32 passes for 372 yards and seven touchdowns this season. He has ’s got two rushing touchdowns.

“Elijiah is an amazing kid. Porter and Jacolby are the same. They’re leaders off the field and know what to do on the field. They do a great job in the classroom. They are really active in the school community. All of things we ask our athletes to do, they do.”

Hastings said he thinks they can set the stage for future teams at the school.

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Providence Day head coach Adam Hastings gives instructions to the players during practice on Tuesday, September 19, 2017. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

“For Providence Day, it’s unusual to have this type of talent,” Hastings said. “But if you look at some of the other private schools nationally, it’s not. But one of the great things about Providence Day is it’s an unbelievable academic institution, a great community of people with a different focus than some other schools and there’s an opportunity to have great athletics. I think it’s a really neat set up.”

Heading into Friday’s game, the Chargers have three straight wins. A big part of that, Hastings said, is experience. His team returned 18 starters from a 3-7 team in 2016. Those players were hungry for success.

Hastings said players such as junior linebacker/running back Osita Ekownu, who has an offer from Wake Forest, and senior receiver Kyle Wood have played key roles. Wood averages 18 yards per catch. Sophomore quarterback Cody Cater has thrown for 827 yards and nine touchdowns.

A big surprise has been 5-8, 180-pound freshman tailback Nickel Fields, younger brother of former Chargers star Bryon Fields, now a senior cornerback at Duke. Nickel Fields has rushed 73 times for 581 yards and five touchdowns. He’s caught a touchdown pass. He’s also intercepted two passes, one of which he returned for a touchdown.

“We brought back a lot of kids,” Hastings said. “We have a great nucleus of kids and leaders who spent the entire offseason over here. Our spring and summer were amazing as far as attendance, attitude.

“We’ve got 13 seniors and all of them are contributors. That’s the root of our success this year, and it’s allowed guys like Porter, Jacolby and Elijiah to have some really good statistical years.”

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