Independence played a solid game on offense and defence against one of the best teams in the state, but it wasn’t enough Friday as cross-town rival Butler retained the King of the Hill trophy, winning 38-26.
The Bulldogs finished the regular season 9-1 and first place in the Southwest 4A, while the Patriots dropped to 9-2 and third place in the conference. Ardrey Kell took second place in the conference.
In front of a nearly sold out home crowd, the Patriots would rally in the second half, pulling with four points on an R.J. Baker four yard touchdown run.
Butler would come right back on its only meaningful possession of the fourth quarter, driving 80 yards for the touchdown. Josh Glisson ran the ball nine times on the drive, busting into the end zone on a one-yard carry to give the Bulldogs a 38-26 lead.
Butler’s other touchdown of the second half was the result of an interception by Channing Stribling. The referees were unsure if the ball had hit the ground before Stribling snagged it, but after a discussion, awarded the Bulldogs a touchdown. Others saw it differently.
“The ball hit the ground for a touchdown, otherwise we might win the game,” Head Coach Bill Geiler.
It was the last few minutes of the first half that may have actually decided the game. Independence led for most of the second quarter, as quarterback Evan Guest hit both Dequan Barnes and Austin Duke for touchdowns. However, Butler would score twice in the closing minutes of the half to take a 24-14 halftime lead.
“We had a lot of three and outs and made them punt,” Geiler said. “But we didn’t stop them at the end of the first half.”
Guest would finish the game with 245 yards passing and two touchdowns. He also threw three interceptions. Duke had 85 yards receiving and a touchdown, and Isaah Robinson, RJ Baker and DeQuan Barnes each scored a touchdown.
“I feel pretty confident about our offense,” Duke said. “We’re starting to get a balanced attack, but overall we need to work on our performance.”
Duke added a 60 yard kick off return, but two plays later Guest was intercepted. The Bulldogs would score a touchdown off the turnover to end the first half.
Butler quarterback Riley Ferguson threw for 310 yards and two touchdowns and a couple of interceptions. His brother Zach had 10 receptions for 139 yards and a touchdown. Glisson added 110 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
“No. 11 (Zach) is a great athlete and their QB (Riley) is a great athlete and they are well coached,” Geiler said.
Butler’s win makes it the fourth win in five regular season games against the Patriots. Last year’s game was a stunning 61-6 victory for the Bulldogs over the Patriots. With the playoffs starting next week, however, regular seasons are forgotten and the real games begin.
“My kids played hard,” Geiler said of Friday’s game. “Butler is a good football team. But my guys are good too. We’re going to be ready for the playoffs.”
- For the second night in a row, Independence fans were baffled by several calls by the referees. At Thursday’s JV game, a Butler touchdown near the end of the game gave the Bulldogs a 22-20 win. However, some on the Independence side said the runner was two yards short of the goal line. In Friday’s game, an interception by Channing Stribling looked like it might have hit the ground first. The touchdown put the game nearly out of reach for the Patriots. Another Butler interception in the first half near the Independence sideline looked as though the Butler defender may have made the catch out of bounds.
- Independence students discovered the Vuvuzela, the plastic horns used by fans at the last World Cup in South Africa. The noise was so loud it was difficult to hear the public address announcer, or even the person next to you.
- A steady rain in the second half didn’t deter fans. The stadium remained packed to the end. Even some photographers braved the cold rain and remained until the end.