The No. 16 South Meck Sabres wore out No. 8 Providence Friday night in a game that concluded more than four hours after it started due to a lightning delay.
The Sabres built a six-point halftime lead, then rode a dominant defensive performance in the second half after a nearly two-hour break to win 20-7.
South Meck forced a pair of turnovers in the first half and then produced two more second-half takeaways to smother the Panthers’ offense and lead 13-7 at intermission.
On the other side of the ball, the Sabres’ running game – which received a big lift from linebacker Zach Gilbert – took over after halftime. South Meck running back Travis Prince ran the ball 12 times for 59 yards in the first half before he and Gilbert took turns bludgeoning Providence defenders down the stretch. Gilbert finished with two touchdowns and picked up 29 yards on nine carries. Prince finished the night with 152 yards rushing on 24 carries, including a crucial 46-yarder as the Sabres ran down the clock late in the fourth quarter.
Providence’s final possession of the game ended in an interception by South Meck’s John Brannon.
After both teams punted on their first drives, South Meck took advantage of good field position to strike first. Sabres kicker Jonathan Doerer’s 36-yard field goal in the first quarter made it 3-0.
Sabres linebacker Austin Smith forced a Providence turnover on the next drive to set up another Doerer field goal.
South Meck defensive back Stephen Griffin ended the following Providence possession with an interception of quarterback Caleb York. That set up the Sabres for a 15-play, 79-yard drive and the game’s first touchdown, a 1-yard plunge by Gilbert.
The Panthers answered with an 80-yard drive to trim the deficit. Providence capped the drive with a 6-yard strike from York to a wide open Drake Deluliis.