October 16th, 2010

Sartini's Pioneers Roll Clarksville 35-18

Chris Jung

Senior Writer

Sartini's Pioneers Roll Clarksville 35-18
photo by Brooke Ballard

Five different Providence players score TDs in win

On a night when four generations of Pioneers who played under Providence Head Coach Gene Sartini gathered to honor the legendary coach, the current crop of Sartini's soldiers payed homage to his trademark rush-heavy offensive scheme, as three different Providence players rushed for touchdowns and sparked a 35-18 win over Clarksville High School on Senior Night at Murphy Stadium.

Sartini, who is in his 40th season as Providence football coach, was greeted by nearly 125 of his former players and given his first ever Providence letterman jacket during an emotional halftime celebration. He led his old players in one last team cheer and even urged the men, who represented squads from the 1970s to 2009, to kneel and share in a group Hail Mary prayer.

As for the game, Providence took control early following junior running back Zack Johnson's 61-yard touchdown run on the the Pioneers' first offensive play from scrimmage, and never trailed again. That early 7-0 lead held up for the remainder of the first quarter and well into the second quarter, and it appeared Providence would take a shutout into the locker room.

But with under three minutes left until halftime, the Pioneers were stopped on a 4th & 3 and turned the ball over on downs, giving Clarksville QB Wes Rittman time to work. And following a short screen pass that turned into a 48-yard pick up from Rittman to Aidan McEwen, Rittman hit Drew Kissel for a dump pass near the goal line for an eight-yard touchdown reception.

The Generals committed a high snap on the extra point attempt, which allowed Providence to keep a 7-6 lead.

Seconds later, on the ensuing kickoff, the game's key moment took place and lit a spark under the Pioneers' sideline. Following a Clarksville half-hearted, squib onside kick attempt that was smothered and controlled by junior tackle Mitchell Donahue, the Generals' Nathan Masters blatantly slammed into the back of Donahue as he lay over the ball on the ground, injuring the 250-pound lineman. Masters was called for a flagrant penalty on the play and subsequently ejected from the game.

On the very next play, Providence senior quarterback Anthony Denis took a three-step drop, set his feet, and fired a tight spiral pass that caught senior wide receiver Brett Robinson in stride and squarely into the corner of the endzone with 1:38 to go in the first half, igniting the Pioneer faithful and giving Providence a 14-6 halftime lead.

In the third quarter, Providence was rushing its way to a commanding lead when Pioneer running back Johnson fumbled at midfield, giving Clarksville favorable field position. Nearly two minutes later, Rittman found Nick Murrell for a 14-yard touchdown, cutting the Providence lead to 14-12. Clarksville attempted the two-point conversion, but an overthrown pass from Rittman to a wide open Kissel kept the Providence two-point lead in tact.

With 2:19 to go in the third quarter and Clarksville with the ball following a forced Providence punt, the Generals fumbled and lost possession, which ultimately led to a 29-yard touchdown run by senior Spencer Corraro and a 21-12 Providence lead.

The fourth quarter was all Providence, as senior Ryan Dixon became the third Pioneer of the night to score on a rushing touchdown. Dixon ran 22 yards untouched and stretched the lead to 28-12. After a Rittman rushing touchdown for Clarksville that cut the deficit to ten points, senior Tyler Cecil appeared to be the fourth different player of the night to score a rushing touchdown, but his 12-yard score was called back and taken off the board due to a holding penalty against Providence.

Facing a fourth down with 4:50 to go in the game and a chance to make it a 13-point lead, Sartini and Co. faked the field goal attempt and Denis found junior tight end Tyler Ferree in the back of the endzone to put the game away for good. It was career win No. 279 for Sartini at Providence.

Next week begins the 38th annual Indiana State Tournament Series and Providence will play Triton Central in the first round of the Section 31 bracket.


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