Patriots get hot in the second half, knock out East Meck

Photos: Roger Harding[singlepic=372,320,240,,left]Independence’s 43-16 win last night over East Meck in the second round of the playoffs was classic Big I football. Just before half, the Eagles’ Tim Sanders returned an interception for a touchdown. The Patriots blocked the extra point, leaving the game tied 9-9, with 39 seconds left in the half. Independence got the ball back near the 50 yard line, but Anthony Carrothers couldn’t get anything going on the first two plays.

Coach Tom Knotts waits until there are four seconds left on the clock, calls timeout, then sets up his last play. East Meck gets called for pass interference, so the Patriots move 15 yards closer and get another shot, this time from[singlepic=373,320,240,,right] the 35 yard line. With no time remaining, Carrothers threw a perfect pass to Michael Rhynes for the TD. The Patriots went into the half up 16-9.

“That was incredible,” Knotts said after the game. “That’s just typical Independence right there. As long as I’ve been here we’ve been scoring on our last drive. I kept saying, ‘we’re going to score on our last drive, we’re going to score on our last drive.’ We got a chance because of the interference call, and we put it in the end zone.”

The touchdown before half stole the momentum from East Meck going into the locker room. In the third quarter, the Patriots reeled off three unanswered touchdowns for a commanding 36-9 lead. [singlepic=374,320,240,,left]The Eagles ran just four plays in the third quarter for a total of three yards.

Once again it was quarterback Anthony Carrothers who led the way. The junior quarterback either ran, passed, or was passed to, on 41 of Independence’s first 47 offensive plays.

But Knotts said it was the offensive line and running back Harold Blythe who deserved a lot of the credit Friday.

“I was real proud of them. I said, ‘wait a minute now, No. 55  (East Meck linebacker Rockford Stone) is making all the tackles. What’s up here?’ So we talked about it a little bit, and the line said they’d take care of it and they did.”

The line opened gaping holes for Blythe, who rushed 15 times for 132 yards and three touchdowns, almost all of it in the second half. The Patriots ate up nearly the entire last 12 minutes of the game. In the fourth quarter Blythe ran the ball on nine of the Patriots’ 10 plays.[singlepic=375,320,240,,center]

“He hadn’t had many carries the last few games,” Knotts said of Blythe. “He had fresh legs (tonight) and you saw what happened.”

The Patriot’s win sets up a rematch against Butler next week at Memorial Stadium.