Providence coach Justin Hardin may not have been happy with everything his team did Friday night, but he was happy with way it competed throughout.
The Sweet 16 No. 9 Panthers overcame early mistakes and kept Olympic from mounting a comeback late to win the SoMeck 8 opener for both teams 33-14 at Providence.
“We started slow with turnovers,” Hardin said. “The thing I was proud of, what I told the team, was we didn't point the fingers, we just kept playing football and got some rhythm in the passing game and Brian (Mattar) got some rhythm in the running game and we were able to chip away and get some momentum.”
Mattar was the star of the Providence (4-1, 1-0) offense, carrying the ball 21 times for 130 yards and three touchdowns.
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Panthers quarterback Caleb York added 70 yards rushing and a touchdown and also went 8-of-21 for 97 yards passing.
“Brian Mattar is a special young man,” Hardin said. “He was sick yesterday and wasn't feeling well at halftime. ... He plays his heart out every single Friday night and his teammates know it. They know how special he is and it’s an honor to coach someone like him.”
Both first quarter scores came off of mistakes from the other team.
Olympic (2-3, 0-1) forced York to fumble and the Trojans’ Delmarius Gilliam recovered, setting up an 11-yard touchdown pass from Jeremiah Dorsey to Torry Baker.
The Panthers were forced to punt on their next drive, but Olympic muffed the kick and Providence recovered, setting up a 1-yard Caleb York keeper five plays later.
The second quarter was all Mattar. He scored on runs of 13 yards and 16 yards – the latter set up by a Connor Johnson interception – to give the Panthers a 20-7 lead at halftime.
Providence’s John Biasucci hit a 39-yard field goal to extend the lead to 23-7 early in the third quarter.
Olympic answered on the next drive, taking just two plays to go 80 yards and scoring on a 62-yard pass from Dorsey (11-of-32, 151 yards) to Joe Lamar to make it 23-14.
The Panthers’ offense struggled to put the Trojans away late.
Providence had to punt on each of the next three possessions and only managed a 44-yard Biasucci field goal the fourth despite starting the drive on the Olympic 31 yard line.
“I've got to give credit to Olympic's defense,” Hardin said. “They’re fast and they’re very sound and they play hard. They’re going to be a tough team to beat in our conference.”
The Panthers' defense kept Olympic from mounting any kind of comeback by forcing three turnovers and two punts in the fourth quarter.
Dru Seabrook recovered an Olympic fumble and Tyler Pistorio and Devon Kent each had interceptions.
Kent’s interception set up Mattar’s third touchdown of the night from 9 yards out with 6 minutes, 25 seconds left.
“We had some turnovers tonight and some things we’ve got to get better, but I’m just really, really proud of their effort on both sides,” Hardin said. “That’s a team effort.”