CHARLOTTE – Myers Park football coach Scott Chadwick had a simple response for the play that ended the first half and effectively killed any thoughts Providence had of an upset when the Panthers hosted the highly touted Mustangs on Aug. 31.
“That?” Chadwick said as he searched for the right superlative. “That was just a phenomenal play between two really good football players.”
The play in question was a 46-yard bomb as the first half clock expired from Myers Park quarterback Drake Maye to stud senior receiver Elijah Bowick, who was entangled in a host of Panther defenders. It put the Mustangs up 28-14 and led to a 55-14 win.
Bowick lept over a group of Providence defenders for the grab, securing it seemingly effortlessly as he out-jumped the Panther secondary waiting in the end zone for that exact play.
“It was basically just coach Chadwick taking a shot, and he trusted in me,” said Bowick, who stands 6-foot-2, weighs 200 pounds and routinely beat the Providence secondary. “He drew up an unbelievable play and I went out and executed it for us.”
Bowick ended the first half with four catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a long catch and run touchdown called back due to penalty in the second half.
The Bowick catch before half came two plays after Providence running back Nathan Mattar capped a nine-play Panther drive that got the crowd on its feet and cut the lead to 21-14 with just 14 seconds remaining.
But Bowick’s score was the dagger, coming one play after a Providence penalty. From there, the Mustangs dominated, running the ball 33 times for 251 yards for the game and on 18 of 21 second-half plays.
“I thought we were pretty efficient for the most part offensively,” Chadwick said. “We scored on every drive where we didn’t turn the ball over, so I’m real proud of our execution offensively. We haven’t had that many yards rushing the ball in a long, long time. No doubt that’s going to help us out going forward if we can run the ball like that.”
Senior Jacquez Robinson scored three second half touchdowns and ran 11 times for 85 yards in the second half alone en route to 100 yards on the ground.
Jatoine Fields scored once and carried nine times for 81 yards. Tim Newman Jr., who transferred from Country Day during the school week, ran six times for 39 yards late in the fourth quarter as the Mustangs used their superior size and speed to overwhelm the out-manned Panthers.
Maye was 14-17 for 197 yards and three touchdown passes, but went just 2-for-3 for 21 yards in the second half as the Mustangs pounded the ball on the ground.
Maye eventually gave way to Wriley McKeown, who scored his first varsity touchdown on a quarterback run late in the game.
Bowick, who didn’t catch a pass other than a 60-something yard catch and run that was called back due to penalty, said leaning on the run game can make the Mustangs an even better team.
“It’s a big load off of the receivers and the passing game when we are a dual-threat team like we were tonight,” said Bowick, a Virginia Tech commit. “We can run the ball and pass the ball. Being able to do those two components is the key to winning football games. Teams don’t know what we are going to do because we can run it, pass it and our O-line is blocking so well and blocking for our pass game.
“We’re pretty unstoppable to beat right now.”
The Mustangs have dominated each of their first three opponents, as they average 47 points per game on offense while giving up 21 total points in three games on defense. But as Chadwick told his team following the game, he believes they can be even better despite allowing the Panthers just 13 yards on 11 second-half carries.
“I think we can play better. The three turnovers and the penalties are bad and we have to continue to clean that up,” he said. “It’s the turnovers and penalties. We have to cut those out. “But defensively the No. 1 thing we did that I liked is every time we turned the ball over, we didn’t allow them to turn that into points, so that’s huge.”
Providence quarterback Mason Boothe was efficient, completing 17-22 passes for 180 yards, but he threw a pair of picks and couldn’t get the offense going in the second half when the Panthers had three punts, a turnover on downs and interception and never had a drive longer than seven plays.
Offensively, the Panthers gained just 71 yards of offense in the second half.
Now, as they set to face unbeaten Pinecrest on the road this week, the Panthers have to regroup. They’ve given up 103 points in blowout losses the past two weeks combined, and have the possibility of a three-game losing streak staring them in the face.
As for the Mustangs, they have winless South Meck coming off their bye this week, then Myers Park gets a bye followed by games they should win against Garinger (Sept. 21) and Rocky River (Sept. 28) before an Oct. 5 showdown at Butler that could decide the conference championship.
But Chadwick and his team will not be looking ahead.
“South Meck is always a big game because it’s a big rivalry and we know we’re going to get their best shot,” Chadwick said. “We know that and we’ll be ready to go. We will, too.”