The Butler Bulldogs put together one its most solid games of the season Friday, defeating Independence in the second round of the state 4AA playoffs, 42-20.
“We didn’t execute on offense like we needed too,” Independence Coach Bill Geiler said after the game. “And we didn’t stop them on defense. They are a good football team. My hat’s off to them. They had a good game plan and kept us from doing what we do. The better team won.”
The Bulldogs when up 14-0 in the second quarter when quarterback Rile Ferguson hit his brother Zach for a three yard touchdown pass.
Independence fought back, as Tyler Faye returned a Butler fumble 22 yards for a touchdown. A failed extra point made the score 14-6 with five minutes to go in the half.
Like the first meeting between the two teams, Butler would answer to end the half, as the Ferguson to Ferguson combo resulted in another touchdown, making the score 21-6. Independence would score twice more in the second half, but Butler answered every score with a points of its own.
Butler quarterback Riley Ferguson completed 20 of 33 passes for 286 yards. He threw for four touchdowns, three of which went to his brother Zach who added 81 yards receiving.
Uriah Lemay added 72 yards receiving and a touchdown, while Josh Glisson ran for 93 yards for the Bulldogs.
Independence didn’t turn the ball over, and made few mistakes throughout the game. However, Butler constantly pressured Indy QB Evan Guest, sacking him three times and flushing him out of the pocket many more times.
Guest threw for 203 yards, but completed just 15 of 39 passes. Austin Duke caught four of those passes for 74 yards and threw a pass for 27 yards. Duke’s long kick and punt returns gave Indy great field position throughout the game, but Butler’s defense held its ground.
“They’re a great team,” Zach Ferguson said of Independence. “We knew they were going to play hard. But our defense played big tonight and hopefully the rest of the season we can get it done.”
Butler earned the right to travel to Greensboro next week to take on undefeated Greensboro Page in the third round of the playoffs. The Bulldogs are aiming for their third consecutive state title.
Independence finished the season 10-3, a complete turnaround from last season’s hugely disappointing 3-8 record.
“It hurts today, but when they (Indy players) wake up tomorrow they will realize what they accomplished” Geiler said of his team. “No one thought we were going to be good except those with the Independence jerseys. They accomplished a bunch.”
• Independence’s turnaround this season should not be underestimated. The team has basically the players it did last season and at times played as well as anyone in the state. The loss of several key seniors will hurt next season, but based on its JV record, it should be able to reload.
• Butler is loaded with high-profile players, but receiver Zach Ferguson is perhaps the most valuable. His size and hands make him nearly impossible to cover and it helps he catches throws from his brother Riley. The pair have great timing.
• If the Bulldogs get past Greensboro Page next Friday, it could set up a rematch with Mallard Creek, the No. 1 team in the state, and the only team to beat the Bulldogs this season.