CHARLOTTE – Although they are seven or eight years apart in age, Providence Day brothers Bryon and Nickel Fields closely resemble each other in physical stature from a distance.
On Nov. 15, the younger sibling made sure their high school football careers aligned as well.
In 2011, the last time the Chargers won a state title, Bryon had starred with the Chargers all over the field. That season as a junior, he led the team with 653 receiving yards but gained over 1,300 total yards with his kick return skills. He also had five interceptions that year before starring as a defensive back at Duke.
Fast forward eight years, and this time the Chargers came into their Division II title game against Metrolina Christian having already beaten them 42-10 earlier this season. But a pair of injuries to star receivers Thomas Flynn and JT Smith, who both left before halftime and never returned, changed some of the game plan.
“We had some injuries early to some key guys for us,” said Providence Day coach Adam Hastings. “It didn’t make us one dimensional, but it didn’t help us. We were down our two best receivers and we had to rely on the feet of Nickel and (quarterback) Cody (Cater).”
Fields made his mark, garnering a whopping 34 carries he turned into 167 yards and three touchdowns after getting just 42 yards on 14 carries in the first meeting between the two teams.
That was enough to power the Chargers to the 28-13 win that gave them their first state title since 2011, albeit in a lower classification.
Fields also caught three passes for 48 yards and finished his season with over 870 rushing yards, 27 catches for 220 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns.
“He was awesome,” Hastings said. “When we needed Nickel, he really performed well. I was really pleased with him.”
Senior quarterback Cody Cater had a fine game as well, as he completed 14-of-22 passes for 140 yards but didn’t commit a turnover. Cater also ran nine times for a season-high 76 yards and a touchdown to keep the Warriors at bay.
With North Carolina commit Kedrick Bingley Jones and Ohio State recruit Jacolbe Cowan harassing Metrolina quarterback Angel Gonzalez all night, the senior threw three interceptions, passes that were picked off by Bo Schneider, Mac Hale and Zach Lohavichan.
The Chargers also limited Metrolina star Jadus Davis to -2 rushing yards on eight carries and just three catches for 35 yards although he did score once.
“Just because of his ability, and they have a lot more weapons, we knew they’d have one or two big plays, but our goal was to limit them,” Hastings said. “They had three big plays, and two of them led to scores and another to a big drive. We always felt like if we could maintain his big plays to under two that we could at least put some pressure on them.”
The Chargers front four did just that as the Warriors could manage just 159 yards of total offense with three turnovers thanks to strong efforts from Hale, Jesiah Davis and Giorgio Antonacci, who led the team with six tackles each.
Hastings said this win was especially special for the seniors, several of whom played varsity as freshman during the 2016 season or rotated with the JV team that played games with as few as 13 players.
That team went 3-7 and didn’t make the playoffs at all after going 0-3 against Charlotte Latin, Country Day and Charlotte Christian.
“That was a big rebuilding year for us and we struggled,” Hastings said. “We lost all of our conference games and didn’t play well that year, but they were a part of that as freshmen. To see them take the maturity and build the steps of leadership from that year to now is so gratifying.”
Hastings won his first state title in his 10th season as a head coach and fifth with the Chargers.
“The most satisfying thing was seeing how happy they were after the game,” he said of his players.