Providence Day repeats as football champions

Providence Day avenged an earlier loss to rival Charlotte Christian with a 55-13 win in the state title game, earning the Chargers the first consecutive football championships in school history. Photo courtesy of David Oliver

 

 

CHARLOTTE – The first time Charlotte Christian and Providence Day met, the game was widely considered one of the most exciting games of the high school football season.

The Chargers, heavily favored to win their second consecutive state title as far back as the preseason rankings, got up big in their first game, leading 20-7 at the half. They were seemingly in control until a 24-3 Charlotte Christian fourth-quarter blitz ended a long Providence Day win streak. 

Then on Nov. 18, when the teams met again for the NCISAA title, the script nearly replayed itself as the Chargers raced out to a 27-6 halftime lead. 

This time would be much different, however, as the Chargers defended their home turf and ran away with a more-than-impressive 55-13 beatdown of their biggest rival.

“That is a very good team that we played and the fact that they didn’t look like it is a credit to how well our kids played. I was really proud of them,” said Providence Day coach Chad Grier, who led his team to their fifth state championship and second in a row for the first time in school history. 

“To give up 24 points in a quarter takes a lot of things to happen. It happened in all three phases and, to their credit, they made big plays in all three phases. We had some bad calls go against us, they made some plays, we missed some tackles and missed some plays, missed some throws and you name it. But what I saw differently at halftime in the locker room last time was we were saying the right things. We’d won 15 games in a row at that point and all of these 7-on-7 tournaments and our kids expected to win. When they came back, our kids re-focused and we got up by 20 again, but the same intensity wasn’t there. All of a sudden they make a couple of plays and we’re down. This halftime it was a very different level of focus and intensity. I think last time we didn’t have the intensity to keep our foot on the gas, but tonight it was a different story. We knew we were going to finish and not take a chance.” 

After the Chargers jumped out to a 21-6 halftime lead, running back Chris Peal added a pair of touchdowns to break the game open.

Peal, a Georgia cornerback commit, had 17 touches for over 100 yards but was far from the only Charger to star in what turned out to be a blowout win.

Quarterback Jadyn Davis, ranked amongst the top of the junior quarterbacks in the nation and highly coveted himself, completed 18-for-28 passes for 350 yards and six touchdowns, including scoring throws to Brody Barnhardt (five receptions, 93 yards and two touchdowns), Jordan Shipp (four catches, 114 yards and a touchdown), Channing Goodwin (three receptions, 46 yards and two touchdowns) and Jayden Hollar (four receptions, 54 yards and a touchdown), leading a balanced attack. 

So much balanced that Barnhardt intercepted a pair of Charlotte Christian passes and was joined by Goodwin (two picks) and Liam Groulx, who combined for five interceptions on Knights quarterback Cam Estep.

With the highly talented Chargers lineup, which also features 6-foot-6 sophomore offensive tackle David Sanders (ranked as the nation’s No.1 overall recruit in the Class of 2024), Grier thinks some outsiders may look at the star-studded roster and believe Providence Day is just a landing spot for local talent. 

But that is not the case. 

“This is an elite academic institution first and foremost,” Grier said. “If a kid wants to come here, they need to keep up academically first. 

“I think it is disrespectful to the kids and how hard they work. David Sanders has been here since 8th grade, and he was a basketball player. Now he’s the No. 1 prospect in football. Braxton Winston, who doesn’t get nearly enough credit for how good he is in the secondary, is a basketball player. Brody Barnhardt was a running back in middle school, Jordan Shipp was a quarterback his whole life until he got to Providence Day, and then we made him a receiver. Chris Peal was a running back his whole life, and obviously a good one, but he’s going to Georgia as a corner. They just all became really good football players, and it cheapens how hard they work every day to say it’s just a collection of talent.”

As Grier looked back on the season that was completed in grand style, he can only be thankful for what his team was able to accomplish. 

Together. 

“Our kids were really prepared,” Grier said. “Our offense gets all of the credit, and deservingly so, but our defense has played lights out since that Christian game. We’ve been really, really good and we only gave up one score and one on a kickoff (in the state title game), which is on me and not on the defense. You can’t say enough about our defense and our staff. 

“This means a lot, but it doesn’t happen without support from the entire community. I support every sport, but football is just different. I love kids playing ball, but football is different. It takes a different level of commitment, effort and energy and in our case it takes a whole football community. I’m really happy for what all of us were able to accomplish.”

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