Patriots fall short Knights win 43-30

QB Arnold Taylor in the pocket for Indy. (Ron Morris)
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Davion Nelson crosses the goal line on a 45 yard TD run. (Ron Morris)
Ryan Howe connects for an extra point. (Ron Morris)
Trevor Bryan scoring a touchdown. (Ron Morris)
Patriots celebrate a TD. (Ron Morris)
Textbook tackle by Patriots Moshay Saw. (Ron Morris)
Tyson Clawson with a big hit. (Ron Morris)
Shai Wheeler tripped up after making a pass reception. (Ron Morris)
Patriots Michael Golden in action. (Ron Morris)

The Independence football team is now 2-2 on the season. After starting with two consecutive blowout game victories, they have now dropped two in a row in games they had a great opportunity to win.

The Patriots won the coin toss and elected to put the defense on the field. The opening kickoff rolled out of bounds inside the ten, so the Knights began their opening drive from their own 35 yard line.

The Knights then proceeded to drive the ball down to the 19 yard line of the Patriots. On a third down and 1 situation, the Patriots Ethan Safriet sacked the quarterback for a 9 yard loss to the 27. Instead of attempting a field goal, the Knights elected to go for the first down, the Indy defensive line jumped off side, making it fourth down and 4 from the 22 yard line. The Knights would convert on a 8 yard gainer, then connect on a third down from the 9 with a touchdown reception from Jared Joseph to Michael Hetzel.

On the ensuing kickoff Indy would begin their drive from the 23 yard line. After Davion Nelson picked up his first 3 yards of the game, QB Arnold Taylor would connect with Brian Morgan for a 22 yard gainer to the 48. Two plays later Nelson would pick up 14 yards on a slashing run to the 35 yard line of the Knights. The drive would stall, and the field goal kicker Ryan Howe would make a 40 yard attempt, on a high snap handled extremely well by the holder, the ball flew high and straight, but just missed under the goal post.

On the Knights next possession, it appeared they had connected on a 70 yard touchdown, however, it was called back on an obvious holding call protecting the quarterback in front of the official. On the next play, the Patriots Shai “Wheels” Wheeler would leap high in the air for a huge pass interception and then return the ball to the Knights 48.

On a second and 7 from the 45 yard line, Patriots hard charging running back Davion Nelson would break two tackles finding daylight and scamper into the end zone down the right sideline for the touchdown to even the score.

In the second quarter, the Patriots would strike first when sophomore field goal kicker Howe would connect on a 31 yard field goal giving the Patriots a 9-6 lead.

The kickoff would be returned by Josh Johnson 68 yards down to the 18 of the Patriots. The Knights would score on a 7 yard carry by Michael Hetzel to take a 12-9 lead.

On the kickoff the Knights executed an unexpected on-side kick and recovery on the 50 yard line. On first down from the 32, the Knights would score on a touchdown toss from Joseph to Cedric Gray expanding their lead to 19-9. The Knights would add another score after an interception of a Taylor pass setting them up with good field position taking a comfortable 26-9 advantage.

However, there is no quit on this Independence football club, they would get the ball at midfield, gain 15 yards on a pass reception to Nelson, but an illegal block penalty was called. Indy would put their fate on the back of their excellent running back Nelson who would pick-up gains of 10, 6, 8, 4, 8 yards and two first downs. A pass completion from Arnold to Shai Wheeler would get the ball down to the seven yard line. Then freight train Nelson would rumble over two would be tacklers to smash the ball into the end zone to make the score 26-15 with 1:08 remaining in the first half. The two point conversion fell a yard short, but the resilient Patriots sent a message to the Knights, this game is not over.

In the second half Independence came out fired-up and ready to rumble. Whatever, Coach Mike Natoli said during the intermission certainly resonated. The Patriots would go out and score two consecutive touchdowns dominating the third quarter.

The first score would come when Brevin Caldwell would make a big 12 yard reception to the 34 yard line, then Nelson would rumble again for another 46 yards to the 20 yard line of the Knights. On a first and goal from the 7 yard line, a shuffle pass from Taylor to Trevor Bryan for the touchdown would make the score 26-21. The two point conversion was successful on a “Swinging Gate” play to bring the Pats to within a field goal to 26-23.

On the next possession the Pats would have a scare when Nelson had to leave the field with leg cramps, However, Taejuan Smith filled in with a huge first down run to make an important contribution. Independence would take their first lead of the football game on two plays, a pass reception from Taylor to Caldwell for 37 yards, and an 8 yard touchdown pass to Trevor Bryan, with the PAT going through the uprights the home boys took a 30-26 lead on 21 unanswered points.

However, during the final seconds in the third, after two outstanding defensive plays by Sirr Robison and Tyson Clawson, putting the Knights in a 4th and 10 from the Patriots 40 yard line, a questionable pass interference call was made by the backfield judge on an overthrown pass, it could not be caught by the receiver, giving the Knights a first down. As the script would be written after a tough break, on the next play Knights quarterback Joseph would connect with Cedric Gray for a touchdown to end the third quarter with the Knights up 33-30. This appeared to be a momentum changer, as the Pats defense was playing well, the offense was clicking and should have taken over on downs in good field position.

In the fourth quarter, Indy was driving once again, but an illegal shift penalty nullified a first down on a 20 yard gainer by Nelson who returned to the game fresh and ready to play. On the next play Taylor would hook-up with Caldwell for a 16 yard gain, but short of the first down. Reliable punter Alex Collins would shank the punt giving the Knights good field position on their own 46. On a second and 7 from the 49 yard line, Joseph found Michael Hetzel who would sneak behind the Pats defense by almost 15 yards for the touchdown making the score 40-30. The Knights would add a 28 yard field goal with 2:28  remaining from Jackson Price making the score 43-30.

On the kickoff Caldwell would make a nice return giving Indy excellent field position. However, with 1:07 remaining on the scoreboard clock from the Knights 37 yard line, Taylor would throw an interception on the 5 yard line ending the threat along with any hopes of a comeback.

Independence has a bye next week and will prepare for their next game against Hickory Ridge at home on Friday, September 27th.

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Ed Berti
Ed is retired and remains active as a freelance writer, local journalist and independent contractor. He is engaged in print and electronic media writing stories covering business, sports, hometown news and veteran's affairs including articles of interest to various media outlets. Ed is a graduate of Wagner College where he earned an MBA and holds a BBA from Pace University.
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