The Independence Patriots overcame a 13-7 first-half deficit to score 21 points in the fourth quarter to defeat local rival Rocky River Ravens 28-20 in a huge conference win at the “Rock” in Mint Hill on Friday night.
After going ahead 14-13 early in the fourth quarter, Rocky River would take the lead 20-13 midway through the quarter. However, a resilient Patriots team would score 14 unanswered points to take home the victory. A huge first down 99-yard touchdown run by the Patriots Davion Nelson would seal the deal with 54 seconds remaining on the scoreboard.
The Ravens celebrated senior night prior to the game. The team was up for the contest and ready to pull off the upset. They responded to the Patriots who scored first when Nelson would break free and scamper to pay dirt on a 39-yard touchdown to take a 7-0 lead. On the next possession starting from their own 36-yard line quarterback Korey Hailey would find Sinceer Scott for a 12-yard completion. The Ravens would keep the ball on the ground, throw a screen pass for good yardage and complete the drive on a 3-yard quarterback keeper by Hailey to tie the score at 7 as Alex Elzey would kick the PAT through the uprights.
This football game was going to be a defensive struggle and for three quarters it turned out exactly as we thought prior to the match-up. The Ravens would score their second touchdown in the 2nd quarter. The Rocky River junior running back Kalib Jennings had another solid performance capping off a 58-yard drive with a 4th down 2-yard touchdown run into the end zone to put the Ravens up 13-7. The coaches made a decision to try a 2-point conversion that failed which at the time appeared questionable especially in the fourth quarter as they have a reliable kicker.
The first half would ultimately end on a drive starting from the Patriots own 42-yard line with 4:34 remaining until the intermission. Shai Wheeler the Patriots quarterback with his second complete week at the helm completed a 24-yard reception to Brevin Caldwell. He would add a 3-yard run, then on a reverse Brian Morgan would take the pigskin down to the 16 for a 9-yard pick-up. The Patriots would try an end around that lost 12 yards, Wheeler then would drop back and was intercepted on the 2-yard line by the Ravens Tyler Jennings to end the threat.
In the second half, during the third quarter, both defenses controlled the tempo and pace of the contest. They dominated fresh off the half-time break, applied pressure on both quarterbacks with excellent defensive line and linebacker performances. Including good defensive back coverage. However, in the fourth quarter, the offenses took over making this game not only competitive but extremely interesting and exciting down to the final seconds.
In the fourth quarter, the Patriots would put together a 44-yard drive on their first possession after the kick-off that would stall on the Ravens 18 yard line. The field goal attempt was wide to the left. The Ravens took over and drove to the 40-yard line, Hailey connected on an 18 yard gain to Kalil Alexander that was nullified by a penalty for a crack-back block. The punt was misplayed by Bryan and recovered by the Ravens in excellent field position on the Patriots 21. The stout Patriots defense held and intercepted a Hailey pass in the end zone intended for Scott for a touch-back.
With a drive starting on their our 20-yard line, the Patriots would put together an 80-yard touchdown. Wheeler connected for 12 yards to Brevin Caldwell, Nelson and Wheeler would combine for 28 yards to matriculate the ball downfield, an offside penalty and pass interference call on the Ravens defense would put the ball on the 19-yard line. On a quarterback option play, Shai Wheeler found some blockers and turned on his afterburners to scamper into the end zone untouched to tie the score at 13-13. Ryan Howe would kick the PAT straight through the uprights for a 14-13 lead with 7:00 remaining in the contest. The 8-minute drive by the Patriots was critical at this point in the football game.
However, there was no quit on this Ravens football club. They would take the kick-off starting from their own 15-yard line. Nifty and talented running back Kalib Jennings rushed for 18 and 13-yard gains consecutively, a pass interference call on Tedrick Spicer of the Pats, gave the Ravens an automatic first down on the Patriots 39 yard line. Hailey found Jennings on a quick pass over the middle for a 31 yard gain to put the ball on the 8-yard line. Jennings took the hand-off on the next play from scrimmage and scamper into the end-zone for the go-ahead touchdown. The PAT was good by Elsey giving the Ravens a 20-14 lead with 2:38 remaining.
On the ensuing kick-off, the athletic and versatile Shai Wheeler would catch the ball on the 10 and carry it down to the Ravens 18 yard line before being driven out of bounds. Nelson had two carries for only 3 yards as the Ravens defense stiffened, then on a 3rd down and 7, Wheeler would take a quarterback keeper like Cam Newton, and ramble into the end zone untouched for the touchdown to tie the game at 20-20. Howe would drill the PAT giving the Patriots what seemed like the game-winner with 1:18 on the scoreboard clock making the score 21-20.
On the kick-off, Isaiah Mcllwain would catch the football on his own 10 and return it down to the Patriots 42 yard line. Now with 1:10 remaining, Hailey would drop back and take a shot toward the end zone and was intercepted inside the one-yard line.
However, the game was not over, with the ball only two feet from the goal line, a safety would put the Ravens ahead. But, the Patriots outstanding running back Davion Nelson had other ideas. He took the hand-off from Wheeler, go off tackle hit a brick wall of Raven defenders, bounced outside, ran over a would-be tackler, break into the open field and it was off to the races as he would score on a 99 yard touchdown with only linebacker Brian Grier in pursuit with 54 seconds remaining. The PAT was good giving the Patriots the much-needed win to earn a spot for the upcoming playoffs 28-20.
The Patriots will take on nationally ranked, state and conference powerhouse Myers Park next week. While the Ravens will face off with the Wildcats from Garinger in their regular-season finale.
Patriots 7 0 0 21 28
Ravens 7 6 0 7 20