CHARLOTTE – Providence Day entered the halftime locker room with a familiar, yet unwelcoming feeling as the Chargers battled Charlotte Latin in both teams’ conference opener on Sept. 28.
The Chargers thought they had put the memory of an 0-3 start to bed with two convincing blowout shutouts over lesser opponents during the past two weeks.
“We had a perfect storm of events early in the season,” Providence Day coach Adam Hastings said. “We played Trinity Christian and they haven’t lost a game yet. We played Ridge View, who is a 5A high school who (hadn’t) lost a game since we played them. So we played some really good teams and we went through some adversity. But we got better and better every week.”
As the Chargers entered their Mosack Athletic Center locker room, it was like an old feeling had returned.
Providence Day had let a 7-0 lead disappear into a 10-7 deficit. After Porter Rooks reeled in Cody Cater’s 57-yard bomb the Chargers went up 14-10 only to see Latin drive down and score on a two-yard Carter Stockwell run to get the Hawks up 17-14 at the halftime break.
But, Hastings said, there was a calm as the Chargers took the field with the ball to open the second half.
“We wanted to come out and do what we do and not get caught up in anything else,” Hastings said. “We did that. Our guys play hard and they believe in each other. We got in a few bad down and distance situations, but our guys don’t fret.”
The Chargers opened the second half with a methodical drive, capping it off with another Cater-to-Rooks connection, this time on a 5-yard fade in the corner of the end zone.
The score put the Chargers up 21-17, but back came Latin.
The Hawks ran almost five minutes off the clock. On one play earlier in the drive, sophomore Hawk quarterback Jake Helfrich fumbled the snap, but Latin recovered. With 4:41 to play in the third quarter, Helfrich fumbled again, and this time the Chargers recorverd on their own 22.
It was a play that would take a lot of air of our Latin’s sails.
“It did,” Latin coach Justin Hardin said. “We had five turnovers tonight and we haven’t had five turnovers all season. And then on defense, we dropped probably five interceptions that we could have had. They’re a good football team with good players, but we didn’t execute in the red zone at times, and we had some trouble running the football tonight.”
Latin’s three ensuing drives following the Helfrich fumble would end with an interception, three and out and a turnover on downs late in the fourth quarter as the Charger defense hunkered down.
Stockwell ran 24 times on the evening and gained 81 yards (3.4 yards per carry). Helfrich threw for 157 yards and Elijah Horton had five catches for 74 yards, but none of them could get going on offense in the second half.
“Our defensive coordinator told us what we needed to work on and we made some adjustments. We went out and executed in the second half,” said junior defensive end Jacolbe Cowan. “We came after them, and it probably was a lot of pressure. We’re coming after the quarterback on every play and just trying to stop them and stop the offense.”
The Chargers did that, limiting the Hawks to just 119 yards of second half offense.
Cowan, who is one of the top players in the nation in the Class of 2020, has battled injuries throughout his Charger career. But, Hastings said, to have him at one end and Florida commit Kedrick Bingley-Jones at the other can be a daunting task for any offense with the relentless motor they both possess.
“Those two guys are awesome and I’m so proud of them, but especially for what Jacolbe has been through with his shoulder,” Hastings said. “If you put him on the big stage, he steps up and plays well. He’s the guy who steps up in big situations.”
While Bingley-Jones and Cowan were holding down the defense, the offense turned into the Rooks show.
Rooks, who along with Cowan is a top five recruit in N.C.’s Class of 2020, was simply unguardable.
He reeled in seven passes for 129 yards on the night and had the three scores. Carter Dowling added the dagger on a 24-yard touchdown catch late that put Cater over 200 yards passing on the night.
“(Rooks) has gotten better and better every game and every year,” Hastings said. “He’s a warrior. He’s a player and he made some big ones tonight. And then Carter Dowling makes that touchdown catch late. He’s a great kid. You want him to make those plays, so I’m proud of those guys.”
Hardin said his team, which drops to 4-2 with the loss, will regroup as they get ready to host 4-2 Covenant Day on Oct. 5.
“We just have to play better and get ready for next week,” Hardin said. “We can’t give up big plays on defense. We had the right coverages called, but we have to contain that and turnovers. We can’t beat ourselves. We’ll go back to work and clean those things up.
“But I’m proud of my kids. They play as hard as any team that I’ve ever coached and I love them for it.”
The Chargers are hosting winless Christ the King and should get above .500 for the first time this week and be able to finally put the memory of their 0-3 start to rest.
“We stuck with each other and we got better and better and better every week,” Hastings told his huddled team following the win. “You guys never lost that faith and now we’re going to keep rolling and right on rolling.”
As the team let out a raucous cheer, they seemed to have moved on.
And, Cowan said, the adversity they went through together will only make them stronger.
“This is going to help us down the road,” he said. “You always want to play tough opponents in the beginning because when you play tough conference games like this, you have to know how to fight adversity. It was tough, but now we got through it and now we’re on a roll.”