Friday, November 2, the Independence football team got their wish by narrowly beating NW Guilford in an offensive shootout at home. The win helped set up a rematch of the last regular season game, Butler vs Independence.
NW came in with a loaded running game. The Vikings of NW won the toss but deferred the kick to Indy. On their first posses- sion, Indy could not score after gaining a first down on a 12-yard reception from Kelvin Hopkins to Workpeh Kofa, and Jason Connella punted the ball away. It took NWG only eight plays to score when QB Andrew Ritz ran it on the keeper play to put the Vikings up 7-0 at the seven minutes and 43 second mark in the first quarter.
Workpeh Kofa would bring the ball out to the Indy 27 yard line on the kick return. It took Indy five minutes and 15 seconds to cap off an 11-play drive when RB Isiah Robinson would run two yards for the patriot score, 7 to 7.
14 and counting
On the next possession for NW, they threw their first pass after 14 attempts of running the ball, and it was enough for a first down deep in Indy territory. Two plays later, NW would score, but this time Reid Baxter would run 21 yards for the score and make the lead 14-7.
Starting on their 31-yard line, it only took the Patriots three plays and one minute and one second to get the next score. Kofa caught a pass from QB Kelvin Hopkins over the middle and ran 62 yards for the score, making it 14-14.
The next possession for the Vikings would see them march down the field in two minutes, nine seconds and score when RB Kamen Powell would run one yard for the score, making it 21- 14 NW leads.
The next possessions for each team would result in both teams going three and out. Special team star Deion Washington would bring the ball out to the Viking 20 yard line, returning the ball 50 yards. After a face mask penalty on NW, Indy found themselves on the nine yard line. Robinson would run the ball in nine yards for the third Patriot score of the game and tying the game at 21 apiece. NW would hold the ball for eight plays, but turns it over when LB Tony Worthy makes the tackle, stopping the Vikings short of a first down.
“Having fun,” says sophomore Worthy, of his ability to make several key plays for the Indy defense. Independence would get the ball back near the end of the second quarter with 51.8 seconds to go. Seven plays later, Dequan Barnes hooked up with QB Kelvin Hopkins for an 11-yard TD reception with a mere 2.6 seconds to go in the first half, Indy 28 NW 21. Ritz would take a knee to end the first half.
Getting the ball in the third quarter, it took the Vikings two minutes and 44 seconds to score on a 13-yard run and once again tie the game at 28. On the next possession, it would appear that NW stopped Indy and forced them to punt the ball away. Instead, a Viking player committed a cardinal sin and ran into kicker Jason Connella, giving Indy another first down.
Thirteen plays later, Kofa would pull in a seven-yard TD catch to put Indy up 35-28 with three minutes and 18 seconds to go in the third quarter. On the Viking’s next possession, Reid capped off a three- play drive when he runs 71 yards for the next Viking score and ties the game at 35 apiece.
One turnover deserves another
On the next possession for Indy, Hopkins would make a mistake and turn the ball over to NW on a fumble. Once again, Worthy would come up big when he forces a fumble and teammate DT Johntavius King would recover the ball for Indy. Indy would have to settle for a field goal by Christopher Krantz as they just could not get it into the end zone, but lead 38-35.
On the sixth play of the next series for NW, Worthy once again was in the right place at the right time. This time, he recovered a fum- bled snap on the Viking 37 yard line. On the very next play, Robinson would run the ball all 37 yards for the score to put Indy up 45 to 35. On the next Viking possession, it would take them 11 plays and two minutes and seven seconds to score and put the Patriot faithful on the edge of their seats. With two minutes and 35 seconds to go, Baxter would run eight yards for the score and make it 45-42 Independence. Independence could breath easy when DL Jahfari Sommersel would catch a tipped pass and bring the game to an end.
NW did what they had done all year: run the ball. They attempted 44 running plays compared to only 14 pass plays. Baxter burned the Patriots for more than 150 yards and three touchdowns, but it was not enough. Robinson had more than 150 yards on 25 carries and three scores for Indy. The difference in this game was the Indy defense. The old saying, “Offense wins games but defense wins championships” was very true last Friday.
The offense did help the defense with some lengthy drives that let them catch their breath. The defensive presence of LB Tony Worthy and Josh Walker were the difference in this game. Worthy caused a fumble, recovered a fumble, and had 14 tackles.
“Tocho shaking my hand, congratulating me; hyped me up,” said Worthy, of his play and attitude last Friday night. “Practice hard and focus” were the two keys to the game against Butler this week according to Worthy. Walker had 14 tackles during the game.
“I was everywhere tonight. Thought it would be easy, got off to a slow start but picked it up and made tackles,” said Walker, of his playmaking during the game. Hopkins will start against Butler. Senior QB Jason Conella will return to his TE position of last year, where he was an all-conference selection, but don’t be surprised if you see him line up in the wildcat or throw a trick pass or two. The Patriots finished the year undefeated at home.