MINT HILL, NC – The Independence Patriots were able to play competitive football for the first half with the Southwest 4A Conference Champions on Friday night. However, the Bulldogs dominating offensive line and staunch defensive line owned the battle of the trenches in the second half allowing Butler to put up 28 unanswered points.
The Bulldogs ended the regular season 7-2 overall, and 6-0 in the conference as they prepare to head into the state playoffs. The three-time state champions appear to have an opportunity to go deep into the tournament.
On the opening kickoff Indy entered the field all fired up, they seemed determined to pull off the upset. Especially when junior speedster Sincere McIntyre took the kickoff from the Patriots own 11 down to the Bulldogs 40 yard line. As Indy advanced the football down the field with a key 23 yard run by RB Amari Hakeem, the Patriots had a 3rd down from the 13 yard line, a QB keeper by Cameron Kromah moved the ball to the Bulldogs 6, making it a 4th and 1 situation. Kromah handed off to Kaden Thomas who found daylight on the right side, he burst into the end zone giving Indy a quick 7-0 lead only 3 minutes into the contest.
On the ensuing kickoff, Butler would respond with a 72-yard touchdown drive of their own. The Bulldogs converted on three key 3rd down situations including a QB keeper by Xavion Brower of 14 yards. Brower would eventually connect with WR Eli Sylvester for a touchdown to even up the score at 7-7 with 3:45 remaining in the quarter.
The first quarter ended tied at 7-7. However, in the second quarter the Bulldogs would take a 14-7 lead when the Patriots defense missed two tackles on QB Brower who scrambled in the pocket, he burst away outside the pocket, and found a wide-open Alex Judge all alone at the goal line to score a 48-yard touchdown completion. The PAT was good again by Elijah Swett.
On the next possession, the Patriot’s offense was forced to punt. However, the Indy defense prevented the Bulldogs from gaining a first down, they were forced to punt from their own 30 yard line. The Butler punter shanked the kick for only a 12 yard punt giving Indy good field position on the Bulldogs 42 yard line. Junior RB Tyree Glenn on first down dashed for a 12 yard gain to the 30. After Thomas was trapped for a 3 yard loss, RB Khalil Morrison caught a pass from Kromah for an 8 yard gain to the 25. On the next play, Kromah rushed to pick up the first down to the 19. The Bulldogs who had their share of penalties were called for a personal foul, a hands to the face penalty, moving the ball half the distance to the end zone. On the next play, junior RB Shaun Soloman from the 9 yard line, rumbled with abandon around the left side of the Bulldog defense for a Patriot touchdown. The PAT was blocked and we had a tight football game 14-13 with 4:57 remaining in the first half.
After intermission the teams returned to the field to continue the action. The writer has seen this scenario unfold before when Butler dominated Rocky River and other teams in the second half. It was the same script on Friday night under the lights. Only 4 minutes into the 3rd quarter Butler scored taking a 21-13 lead when QB Brower connected with WR Eli Sylvester for a 25 yard touchdown pass and reception.
Indy was still in this football game and played like they wanted to win it. On the ensuing kickoff they had a 1st down from their own 35, Indy drove the football down to the Butler 25 yard line. On 4th down a pass interference call on the Bulldogs in the end zone gave the Patriots new life and a 1st down from the 15. On the next play another personal foul was called on Butler moving the Patriots half the distance to the goal line. Indy drove the ball down to the 2 yard line, however, Butlers stingy defense held putting the ball inside the 1 yard line on 4th down. Indy decided to kick a short field goal instead of going for the TD, the attempt failed as it sailed wide of the uprights.
This was a huge momentum swing as the 3rd quarter ran down. Have to question why the coaches went with a field goal attempt instead of trying to attack a Bulldog strength the middle of the Butler defense on three consecutive plays without success. The Patriots have some speedsters, good running backs who might have been able to dash off tackle or go end around for the touchdown from inside the two-yard line. This was a game changer, and Butler now had all the momentum on their side of the football.
Butler took over from their own 20 yard line and promptly put together an 80 yard drive capped off with a 35 yard touchdown by Travon Tensley giving the Bulldogs a 28-13 advantage. Butler scored on their next possession with another touchdown, this time by Tyrian Moore making the score 35-13. Then with 5:03 remaining in the contest, junior Free Safety Myles Lawson intercepted a Kromah pass for a “Pick Six” to complete all the scoring giving the Bulldogs a solid 42-13 victory.