NETHER PROVIDENCE >> No one can say Strath Haven coach Kevin Clancy went out looking for a season-opening opponent that looked like it might be easy to beat.
The veteran coach scheduled Prep Charter, a stacked and talented AA Public League team that boasts several college prospects including 6-4, 278-pound two-way lineman Karamo Dioubate, who recently committed to Penn State.
Clancy wanted his young, inexperienced team to cut their varsity teeth against a tough opponent before Central League play gets underway. The result was a 27-6 loss to the Huskies (1-0) at George L. King Field.
“We knew they were good,” Clancy said. “We knew they were really good. We wanted to test ourselves to see how we would hang in against a real good club.”
Prep Charter, using a great punt return, started their second drive on the Panthers’ 42-yard line. It took the Huskies eight plays to score on an 18-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Mamud Dioubate to John Davis.
Despite matchup problems against the speedy Huskies ball handlers including Davis, Mamud Dioubate and running back Quadir Strothers, the Panthers held their own, trailing just 7-0 at the half.
Strath Haven did not get a first down until the 8:30 mark of the second quarter and immediately after it did, the Panthers lost the ball and their quarterback, junior Colton Haywood, just two plays later.
Haywood was hit hard after throwing an interception to Keith Fitzgerald. He did not return to the game.
“I thought the kids battled, especially on defense,” Clancy said. “We lost our poise offensively a little bit and we didn’t execute the offense, and you need to against a real good team and take some pressure off your defense.”
Clancy said he thought his defense had kept the Panthers in the game, hoping to make something positive happen on offense as Strath Haven had the ball to start the second half.
Backup Evan Atsaves came in and led a run-only drive that started on his 40-yard line and went 41 yards on six plays before fumbling the ball back to Prep Charter.
The Huskies promptly scored touchdowns on their next two possessions and put the game away.
Strath Haven got it only score when Atsaves hooked up with Kyree Fuller on a 65-yard catch-and run touchdown pass that made the score 20-6. But was too little too late.
Clancy said Atsaves is just getting used to the game. The junior led the Panthers going 4 of 8 for 96 yards and a touchdown.
“He never played football before,” Clancy said. “He’s a baseball catcher who came out for the first time. I was very proud of him.”
Strothers, a senior, led Prep Charter with 173 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown. Mamud Dioubate was 9 of 15 for 118 yards and tow touchdown passes. He also rushed 17 times for 63 yards.
Clancy said he knows he has a team that needs time to develop and he is not going to push the panic button.
Last year Strath Haven got out to a 1-6 start before rallying to win the final four games of its season.
“We’ll get back in and look at film, and build off of this,” Clancy said. “On the whole a lot of kids got their first varsity experience against a real good team. The opportunity is there for us to grow.
“We’ll review the film tomorrow, we’ll look at it analytically and try to get the kids to understand what happened,” Clancy added. “Then build and go back to work. It’s going to take a lot of work on everybody’s part.”