Chargers, Pirates set to square off in Hardin Bowl II
Providence Day’s tour of championship-caliber opponents continues this week with a trip to Class 4A public school Indian Trail Porter Ridge. Already this season, the Chargers have faced Class 3A public school Belmont South Point (a 34-21 loss), 2011 Division III private-school champ Davidson Day (a 24-15 win) and 2011 Virginia private-school champion Liberty Christian, whom the Chargers downed last week, 22-20.
This week’s test could be the toughest so far for coach Bruce Hardin’s club, especially considering the Pirates are coached by Hardin’s son, Blair.
Last year the teams battled to a near-stalemate before Porter Ridge emerged with a late 10-7 win. Providence Day then went on to win the Division I private-school title, while the Pirates advanced all the way to the Class 4A championship game.
Despite last year’s loss, Hardin said his team should enter this week’s contest with some hard-earned confidence.
“I think there were a lot of questions about who we were and where we were going,” said Hardin. “I’ll be shocked if our players don’t go into this game a little more confident. I guarantee you they certainly respect Porter Ridge, and they know how talented (the Pirates) are. We’ve got to play well.”
The same can be said of the Pirates, noted Blair Hardin, who pointed out that his team won’t take Providence Day lightly after last year’s matchup.
“(My dad) has a heck of a football team,” the younger Hardin said. “He’s got everyone back (from last year). They’re good. A lot of people in the area, I guess, don’t understand how good the private-school league in the area really is. (Providence Day) is as good as you’ll come by.
“It’s a huge test for us. Even though we’re a 4A school, it’s probably going to be our toughest challenge this year.”
Last week’s challenge was pretty tough, too, as the Chargers took down Liberty Christian on its home field in Lynchburg, Va. In that game, senior quarterback Chase Ferguson and his receiving corps had arguably their best performance of the season.
Ferguson completed 20 of his 27 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for a score. One of Ferguson’s main targets was 6-foot-3 Mark Brame, who hauled in nine passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner from 12 yards out with 4 minutes, 34 seconds left to play.
This week, Bruce Hardin said Porter Ridge’s team speed will present a challenge for the Chargers and added that his team will need to tackle well against the Pirates, especially up front with defensive linemen Blake Henderson, Ben Greenburg, James Yeldell and Kendall Hughes. It’s the kind of game that doesn’t allow for many distractions, the elder Hardin said.
“I think (Blair) tells his staff and players that it’s a player’s game, and I do the same because it is,” he said. “It’s those players that have to make plays. You can tell these two teams really enjoy playing football. It’s a pleasure being part of it.”
Young Proehl ignites Panthers
Randy Long wants to make it clear: He was disappointed after his Providence High team rallied to take a late lead last week at Rocky River, only to fall, 25-23, in the final moments. The loss dropped the Panthers’ record to 1-3 on the season, including 0-1 in the Southwestern 4A conference.
But the veteran coach also saw some emboldening moments he believes could serve the Panthers well throughout the rest of the season.
It started with junior Austin Proehl, who took over quarterback duties against Rocky River after normal starter James Haigh was sidelined with an elbow injury in Providence’s previous outing, a loss to Hough.
Proehl, the son of former Carolina Panthers receiver Ricky Proehl, was electric at times last week.
The junior scored on a pair of 29-yard runs, including one that helped the Panthers rally from a 19-0 deficit to take a 23-19 lead with 2 minutes, 32 seconds left in the game.
“We didn’t really know what (Haigh) was going to be able to do, and the doctors had gone back and forth until (last) Friday it was confirmed that he wasn’t going to be able to play,” Long said. “So we had to start making some changes, and they were good changes. I thought Austin Proehl came in and did a fine job for his first game at quarterback.”
Proehl finished with 108 yards rushing on 21 carries while completing 12 of 22 passes for 79 yards against Rocky River.
Proehl, who also leads the Panthers in receiving (276 yards, three touchdowns), has some experience at quarterback, having played the position at Western Guilford High before moving to Charlotte for his sophomore season.
“He’s a winner, and he’s going to continue to get better,” Long said. “We’ve just got to hang in there as a team, keep fighting and get better day by day.”
Asked if Proehl would be the team’s starting quarterback moving forward, Long said only, “We’ll just play that by ear.”
Long also added, “Maybe this is the type of team that, as things move along here, we’ll just keep getting better and better. We’ll see how things go.”
South Meck turns corner defensively
Though South Mecklenburg’s 31-19 defeat to Ardrey Kell last week was his team’s fourth in five tries, first-year Sabres coach Rocky White didn’t have to strain to see the silver lining.
For starters, South Meck’s defense, despite allowing a handful of big plays, was solid, holding successfully on four goal-line stands and limiting the Knights to just three second-half points.
“Anytime you have four goal-line stands against a power team like that, that’s pretty impressive,” White said. “I thought defensively, this was the best game we played, so I’m pleased with that.”
White said some injuries have stifled his roster full of two-way players, as have a handful of penalties.
“We still have too many undisciplined-type plays that we’ve got to work on,” White said. “Those are the things we’ve got to prevent if we’re ever going to be a good football team.”
Myers Park continuing to improve
Despite suffering a 49-6 loss to nationally ranked Butler last week, Myers Park coach Greg Taylor was pleased with his team’s effort, especially the fact that it allowed just seven points in the second half.
“(The Bulldogs) didn’t have all their weapons in there, but we kept after it,” Taylor said. “We asked (our guys) to play hard, and we wanted to leave as better football players because we still have six games left and want to keep improving.”
The Mustangs (2-3 overall, 0-1 Southwestern 4A conference) start several sophomores who Taylor hopes will not only get better as the season wears on but also help build toward the future. Key sophomore contributors include running back and leading rusher Jaquavion Alexander and leading receiver Jontavius Hall, but many have had to play big roles this year.
Additionally, Taylor said the Mustangs have been hit hard by the injury bug and have lost several top performers, including receiver Drew Ortiz, who’s out for the year with a knee injury.
“It has been really bad luck. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Taylor said. “But the fill-ins are all getting better, and it will eventually help us.”
Taylor said quarterback Ross Jeffries has continued to impress him and, despite taking a pounding against the Bulldogs, will be ready when the Mustangs play at East Mecklenburg Friday.
“Despite the score (against Butler), I think we are a better team than we were a week ago,” Taylor said. “That’s what you want in games like this, and I’m proud of how we fought out there and the direction we’re headed.”