[singlepic=318,320,240,,left]If there was any question who the best football team was in Mint Hill and North Carolina, those doubts were put to rest Friday night as Independence beat the previous undefeated Butler 42-31. The Patriots solidified their No. 1 state ranking and are the hands-down favorite to win its 8th state title in nine years. Independence is now 10-0 on the season, while Butler fell to 10-1,
It wasn’t the prettiest performance of the year by the Patriots. On the first play of the game they fumbled at the seven yard line. But Butler couldn’t capitalize and had to settle for a Kyle Searles field goal. The Patriots were also called for several key penalties, and the defense gave up the most points of the season. Quarterback Anthony Carrothers threw a key interception to Nate Charest which was returned to the 1-yard-line.
“It wasn’t his best game of the season,” Coach Tom Knotts said of Carrothers, “but he’ll bounce back.”
PHOTO BY ROGER HARDING rahpix.com
It might not have been his best game, but Carrothers, as he has been all season, was the difference maker. He passed for 256 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns. Nearly every Patriot play was either a Carrothers run or pass.
The Bulldogs had their chances. They had the ball inside the Patriots five yard line twice in the first half but could not get into the end zone. The second time quarterback Christian LeMay was picked off by Jeremy Inglesi who returned it 94 yards for a touchdown. LeMay was 11-25 for 146 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Butler offense.
After Butler jumped out on top 3-0 in the first minute of the game, Independence took the ensuing kickoff and marched the length of the field for a touchdown. Carrothers ran for 49 yards on that drive and gave the Patriots a lead they would not let go of the rest of the night.
Independence’s win gives them the Southwestern 4A title and the King of the Hill trophy for the best team in Mint Hill. They will have home field advantage in the playoffs and if Friday’s win over Butler is any indication, are the team to beat.
“If we can keep everyone healthy, we got as good as chance as anyone,” Knotts said.