By GREG BURTON
Special to Southern Indiana Preps
CLARKSVILLE — The Providence Pioneers are sectional champions again. The last time this occurred was 10 years ago, but Friday night the 2017 edition took home the trophy.
The Pioneers scored the final 20 points of the game against Paoli, electrifying the crowd at Murphy Stadium. They turned a close game into a comfortable 41-25 victory in the late stages by scoring twice in the final 4 ½ minutes in the Class 2A Sectional 39 championship game.
Paoli (9-3) appeared to have the upper hand early, and in the second quarter seemed to have Providence (7-5) on the ropes. However, the Pioneers responded to keep themselves in a position to win.
Paoli got on the board first with a 14-yard run by Ian Strange with 3:54 remaining in the first quarter. Kevin Smith broke free for 53 yards for the Pioneers on their next possession to tie the game at seven.
The visiting Rams scored twice in the second quarter, putting Providence in a hole at 19-7. First, Tyler Smith scored on a 1-yard run at the 10:49 mark. Next, Garrett Vincent took the ball into the end zone from 4 yards.
That hole, however, was very shallow, as Kevin Smith found the end zone for a second time. This one was for 2 yards, and Providence trailed 19-14 at the half.
Things really turned around for the Pioneers on their first possession of the second half when Kaden Williams scored on a 1-yard run to give Providence its first lead of the game at 21-19.
Paoli responded immediately, retaking the lead at 25-21 at the 6:21 mark of the third period when Strange converted on a 25-yard pass from Vincent. The conversion failed, and Paoli led 25-21.
That was the end of the offense for the night for Paoli, though. Providence tightened its defense into near strangulation mode, while its offense kicked into gear.
Williams took matters into his own hands 11 seconds later on the kickoff following the last Paoli score. The junior returned the kickoff 80 yards to the end zone to give the lead back to the Pioneers 28-25, a lead they would not surrender for the remainder of the game.
The kickoff touchdown by Williams appeared to be a major turning point in the game, as Providence fairly controlled the game from that point.
In the final quarter, two breakout runs by Providence sealed the win. Kevin Smith scored his third touchdown of the game on a 44-yard jaunt. This was followed by Williams breaking free for a 43-yard score with 2:10 left in regulation.
Kevin Smith and Williams, in the same manner in which they have been producing lately, did heavy damage on the ground for the Pioneers. Smith racked up 137 yards on 15 carries, while Williams added 96 yards on 15 carries.
Providence will play at Class 2A No. 5 Southridge (10-2) at 7:30 p.m. next Friday night for the Class 2A regional championship. The Raiders defeated Class 2A No. 7 Evansville Mater Dei in overtime in the 2A Sectional 40 final Friday 38-31. Mater Dei has eliminated Providence in the sectional the past two seasons.
CLASS 2A SECTIONAL 39
CLASS 2A SECTIONAL 39
PROVIDENCE 41, PAOLI 25
Paoli 7 12 7 0–25
Providence 7 7 14 13–41
Pa — Ian Strange 14 run (Strange kick), 3:54.
Pr — Kevin Smith 53 run (Brandon Schafer kick), 2:26.
Pa — Tyler Smith 1 run (kick failed), 10:49.
Pa — Garrett Vincent 4 run (kick failed), 7:22.
Pr — Smith 2 run (Schafer kick), 4:05.
Pr — Kaden Williams 1 run (Schafer kick), 8:43.
Pa — Strange 25 pass from Vincent (pass failed), 6:21.
Pr — Williams 80 kickoff return (Schafer kick), 6:10.
Pr — Smith 44 run (kick blocked), 4:32.Pr — Williams 43 run (Schafer kick), 2:10.