BY MIKE RILEY
After consecutive blowout losses to rivals New Albany and Floyd Central, the Providence Pioneers came into Friday’s matchup versus Holy Cross in dire need of a win — and some confidence.
They came out with both after a decisive, 27-0 win over the Cougars. Behind the running of senior running back Matt Bell and an offensive line that consistently flattened the Holy Cross defensive front, it appeared that vintage Pioneer football was back on display at Murphy Stadium.
Bell turned into the Providence Bell Cow, carrying the ball 28 times for 323 yards and three scores.
“We had to get back to doing what we do well here, and that’s running the ball,” Providence (1-2) coach Larry Denison said. “We had a very tough week of practice [following last week’s lost to Floyd Central] and these kids responded very well tonight.”
Holy Cross squandered a few scoring chances in the first half. On consecutive Providence possessions, quarterback Nathan Banet tossed interceptions, one of which was returned by Ryan Kaelin to the Providence 35-yard-line with 6:20 left in the first quarter.
A few plays later, kicker Trevor Blair missed a 26-yard field goal left. Later in the quarter, Jacob Ables picked off a Banet pass near midfield, and the Cougars drove deep into Providence territory.
On four down at the Providence 3, quarterback Alec Greenwell rolled out right, looking for a receiver in the end zone. He was chased down by a pack of Pioneer defenders and brought down by linebacker Brad Koerner for a 15-yard loss with 10:35 remaining in the first half.
“We’re a much better defensive team than we’ve showed the last few weeks,” Denison said. “We were able to make some big plays when we needed to on defense, and that also made the difference.”
That play gave the Pioneers some momentum they carried over into their offense. Providence took over on their own 18-yard line, and on first down, Bell went off left tackle and up the Providence sideline for a 64-yard gain, the longest play from scrimmage by either team during the contest.
That play took Providence inside of the Holy Cross 5, and two plays later Bell punched it in from 5 yards out for the lone first-half score. Providence led at the half 7-0.
The Pioneer rushing attack continued in the second half. Banet added a 15-yard scramble for a touchdown with 3:38 left in the third quarter, and Bell scored his second touchdown of the night with a 35-yard scamper, again off left tackle, on the first play of the fourth quarter. He added a 55-yard touchdown run to close out the contest midway through the fourth.
Denison credited his offensive line for opening holes for Bell to run through. He said they spent one brutal day during practice last week entirely on a blocking sled. “I don’t think they wanted to do that again,” Denison said.
The Providence defense also impressed, holding the Cougars to only 89 yards on the ground and eight first downs in the shutout. They gave up a few big plays in the passing game, as quarterback Alec Greenwell completed 3 of 11 passes for 77 yards, but Holy Cross wasn’t able to convert any of those opportunities into a score.
“Overall, it was a good team effort and we’ll go forward from here and build off it,” Denison said.
The Pioneers travel north to Trafalgar to face Indian Creek next week.
PROVIDENCE 27, HOLY CROSS (KY.) 0
Providence 0 7 7 13—27
Holy Cross 0 0 0 0— 0
P — Bell 5 run (Koetter kick), 7:41.
P — Banet 15 run (Koetter kick), 3:38.
P — Bell 35 run (Koetter kick), 11:51.
P — Bell 55 run (pass failed), 7:13.
Providence: Banet 3-13-34-2
Holy Cross: Greenwell 3-11-77-0.
Providence: Bell 28-323, Hauber 2-4, Banet 7-41, Johnson 5-21, Hayes 2-9.
Holy Cross: Kaelin 9-19, Perry 14-46, Greenwell 4-24.
Providence: Noel 1-11, Hauber 1-12, Hublar 1-11.
Holy Cross: Hickey 2-65, Hans 1-12.