By GREG MENGELT
Providence football coach Larry Denison believes his Pioneers will put last Friday’s 53-0 loss to Charlestown behind them heading into Friday’s Clarksville City Championship against Clarksville.
The Class 3A No. 2 Pirates pounded on the Pioneers (3-5) in every way. They jumped out to a 47-0 halftime lead, scored 27 second-quarter points and held Providence without a first down until late in the first half.
For the game, Providence managed just 15 total yards and a pair of first downs, and its defense surrendered 421 total yards.
Still, Denison is convinced his team will bounce back, like it did with a 21-14 win over Evansville Bosse a week after being beaten by Jeffersonville 50-13.
“Obviously, that’s our goal,” Denison said of overcoming last week’s loss. “We’ve put that behind us. The first thing we did [after the loss] was start focusing on Clarksville. We have the bumps and bruises. We don’t want them to relive it mentally, as well.”
Clarksville coach Steve Cooley believes it, too. He understands just how good Charlestown is. The Pirates beat the Generals 67-18 six weeks ago.
“They’ve played some decent teams,” Cooley said of Providence’s recent brutal stretch. “Jeff has a lot of great athletes. Charlestown, too. Charlestown gives everyone fits. They gave us fits. I think their kids will be ready. They’ll play hard.”
The Pioneers didn’t just take a shot to their ego on Friday. Prior to and during the defeat, they lost five starters on defense and five more on offense to injuries.
“Hopefully, we can get everybody healthy,” Denison said. “We should get most of them back.”
Clarksville (4-4) finished Mid-Southern Conference play at 4-3, a lock for fourth place — behind three ranked teams.
Providence, on the other hand, isn’t part of a conference. That gives rivalry games, like Friday’s city championship, added value.
“Hopefully, we can win the city championship,” Denison said. “It’s a big rivalry game. We don’t get to play for a conference championship, so this is our big end-of-the-year goal. It means a lot to us. [The winner] gets a little bragging rights for the town and the neighborhood.”
Cooley is in just his third year at Clarksville and the Generals came up short in the city championship each of the past two seasons. Providence beat Clarksville 43-28 a year ago and 35-18 in 2010.
Cooley is no stranger to rivalry games. While at Fort Wayne Harding, the Hawks had rivals in Fort Wayne Luers and Fort Wayne Dwenger. At Jeffersonville, he coached in one of the state’s most heated rivalries against New Albany.
In a city with just two schools, the Clarksville-Providence game is becoming a special rivalry to him, as well.
“Clarksville-Providence speaks for itself,” he said. “It’s a city championship and the kids all know each other. It will be an intense, hard-hitting, physical game.”
The Generals have won three of their last four games. The defense has two shutouts and the offense is averaging 31.8 points per outing during that period.
The key has been the move of Aidan McEwen from wide receiver to quarterback. Cooley hesitated to move McEwen because of his prowess as a receiver. But the emergence of Brandon Hardin, who had 114 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s 34-0 win over North Harrison, has put his mind at ease.
“Brandon Hardin has been unbelievable for our offense,” Cooley said. “Aidan’s been very, very efficient and doesn’t make poor throws and can use He gives us balance.
“He’s a winner. We put the ball in the hands of one of the best football players around. We’re glad he’s playing for us.”
With the state tournament a week away, a triumph on Friday would mean more than just a city championship. It would continue Clarksville’s momentum or stop the Pioneers’ slide heading into Class 2A Sectional 31 play.
“One of our goals was to have a winning season,” Cooley said. “If we do what we need to do, we can get to 5-4 going into the [first-round tournament game against Eastern]. It’s important to finish the regular season on a positive note.”
“Obviously, we want to be playing our best football at the end of the year,” Denison said, “so a victory Friday would be a big boost to morale. We don’t want to go in [to the playoffs] on a losing streak.”