Last Friday night, two teams about six miles apart met in the second round of the NCHSAA 4AA playoffs: Butler and Independence. It was a home game for Butler, but since their stadium can’t hold the expected numbers, the game was at Memorial Stadium in Charlotte.
This was the second time in three weeks that these two teams met, the first time being to decide the winner of the SW4A regular season conference. Butler came out on top during the first meeting, and Indy was hoping to change the outcome this time.
For nearly 50 years, the Independence Patriots football team has been celebrating every touchdown and field goal with the blast of a cannon, tallying their score on the eardrums of the entire town.
The tradition started in 1966, when Independence High School first opened, and principal Sam Haywood enrolled the school in a contest, one where the prize was a new mascot.
“This was going to be forever, he wanted us to have the opportunity to be part of something great,” said Doug Pressley, former Independence teacher who now manages operations of the cannon.
The contest was held by Lay’s Meats and radio station 61 AM Big Waves Radio, to see which school could collect the most Lay’s Meat labels.
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.
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.