Last Friday, the top two teams in the SW4A conference met for the conference championship, Independence vs Butler at Memorial Stadium. It was a perfect fall night for what turned out to be a great game between two good teams.

Butler deferred the choice, and the game began with the bulldogs kicking to Independence. Both teams struggled during the first quarter. Butler WR Uriah Lemay fumbled the ball, and the Patriots recovered on their own 43-yard line.

About four minutes later, Butler attempted a trick double pass play that brought the ball deep into Indy territory, but was called back due to an illegal forward pass. Independence turned over the ball twice after going for it on fourth down and short possessions during the first quarter.

Indy senior Dequan Barnes just missed an interception in the end zone. Indy was hit with a pass interference call that moved the ball inside of the red zone for Butler. On the next play, Butler RB Josh Glisson ran five yards for the first points of the game, Butler 7 Indy 0.

On a fourth down and 15 situation, Indy punted to Butler, and Glisson capped off the possession with a seven-yard TD run. Independence put in QB Kelvin Hopkins for a banged up Jason Connella.

With some big plays from RB Isiah Robinson, the Patriots did get near the goal line, but were unable to score late in the second quarter.

Butler will miss play of Lemay, who was disqualified during the next possession and will miss the first round of the playoffs after he caught a pass on the Indy sideline, pointing the ball at the Indy fans.

At halftime, the score was Butler 14, Indy 0.

When the game began in the third quarter, Butler QB Riley Ferguson ran the ball in for a score at the five minute and 35 second mark left in the third quarter. Butler leads 20 to 0.

On the next possession for Indy, Butler intercepted a pass, but the bulldogs would turn the ball over to Indy with a fumble near the goal line. Hopkins would fumble a snap and turn the ball over, but teammate Justin Messick would intercept a pass, setting up the first score for Independence. Three minutes, eight seconds, and seven plays later, Hopkins threw a 34-yard TD pass to Barnes, Butler 20 Indy 7.

Butler would score on their next possession, but missed the extra point attempt, Butler 26 Indy 7. Isiah Robinson fielded the next kick and gave his teammates great position as he ran the ball past midfield into Butler territory. Five plays later, senior Jack Tocho ran four yards for Indy and gave the patriots their second TD of the night, Butler 26 Indy 14.

With a game this close and with so much on the line, most coaches would call for an onside kick. That is what Bill Geiler did, but Butler fielded the kick and ran it back for one more score. The game would end Butler 33 Indy 14.

Game notes

Butler is ranked #10 in the country in some polls.

They have 33 seniors on their roster.

“We can’t beat a team like that, the way we played. (We) gave the ball away three times on the five-yard line,” said Geiler about how turnovers hurt the Patriots’ chances for a win. In the end zone after the game was over, Geiler reminded his players that “all the coaches were proud of you and the way each of you battled the whole time.”

Earlier this year, Mallard Creek held Butler to 27 points, and Providence was the only other team to score more than seven points on the Bulldogs besides Independence this year. If Butler is able to get past West Forsyth and Indy advances past NW Guilford, then they will meet again in the second round of the NCHSAA playoffs, and the game will be at Memorial again in two weeks. The Independence JV team finished the year undefeated, which gives more hope to Patriot teams in the future.

Game preview

Independence (9-1, 6-1 in SW 4A) vs NW Guilford (7-3, 4-2 in Piedmont Triad 4A) at Independence

The Vikings of NW Guilford will travel to Mint Hill to take on the Patriots during the first round of the NCHSAA playoffs Friday. NW will try to answer Indy’s strong balanced running and passing game with an impressive running game of their own.

The Vikings are averaging 263.8 rushing yards per game and 26.8 points per game. The NW defense is giving up just 12.7 points per game. Leading the ground attack for NW Guilford are RB Reid Baxter (800 yards, 10 TDs) with an average of more than seven yards per carry. Complementing him in the backfield is Kamen Powell (680 yards, eight TDs and more than six yards per carry) and Anthony Hard- ing (429 yards, more than five yards per carry average and two TDs) this year. In order to stop their prolific running attack, Indy might need to put more players intheboxtojamupany holes.