High School Sports

New Providence High football coach hopes to set bar higher

Providence, No. 15 in the Sweet 16, has a new football coach, Brad Bowles, and a wealth of talent as they try to back up last season's N.C. 4AA quarterfinal appearance. Bowles flips the ball to a player during practice. The Panthers held practice Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015.
Providence, No. 15 in the Sweet 16, has a new football coach, Brad Bowles, and a wealth of talent as they try to back up last season's N.C. 4AA quarterfinal appearance. Bowles flips the ball to a player during practice. The Panthers held practice Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

Brad Bowles knows the standard for Providence football is high.

Bowles, who is in his first season with the Panthers, takes over a program that advanced to the third round of the N.C. 4AA playoffs last year – their best season since 2006 – before losing to eventual state champion Mallard Creek. His charge is to improve on the 10-4 campaign produced by his successor, Justin Hardin, who moved to Independence.

“It’s going real well,” Bowles said. “The people at Providence have been very welcoming; the guys on staff have been doing a great job this summer. The kids are doing an outstanding job working out and buying into the things we’re asking them to do.”

Bowles, who led St. John’s (S.C.) High to back-to-back Region 6-A championships before leaving for Charlotte, will have more to work with at Providence. It also has grander expectations.

“Coming to Providence, it’s a bigger program, a program that has had success in the past,” said Bowles, who went 14-9 in two seasons at St. John’s and earned a pair of Region 6 Coach of the Year awards. “It was clearly different coming into Providence, taking over where coach Hardin and the guys before him had done a really good job building a program, which was a lot different than when I was at St. John’s.”

Change will be evident for the Panthers, especially on offense, where Bowles is installing an option attack. Going with a ground-oriented scheme will ease the transition to a new identity with quarterback Caleb York (2,016 yards passing, 20 touchdowns in 2014) graduated.

“We want to establish a physical run game, but at the same time we want to be balanced,” he said. “We’ve got a couple of guys we feel can stretch the field a little bit and help us in the passing game.”

The philosophy will be similar on defense, where Providence will look to attack with quickness and swarm to the ball.

“Defensively, we’ll change a little bit from what they were doing in the past, “ Bowles said, “but again, we just want to bring that tough, physical, hard-nosed mentality to the program.”

Providence will get an early measurement of its new schemes with games against Summerville (S.C.) and Vance, both playoff teams last season. Bowles is eager to find out how quickly the Panthers’ offseason preparation translates on the field.

“You don’t want to be where people don’t expect you to do well,” he said. “The kids want to be successful. That’s exciting for me.”

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