MINT HILL, NC – On Friday night at the “Big I” the Independence Patriots played a hard fought football game against a tough conference rival Charlotte Catholic. The Cougars were ranked #4 and Indy #12 in the Sweet 16 entering this contest. We all knew this game was going to be an excellent matchup and both teams lived up to the pre-game hype.
Indy controlled the time of possession and tempo with their balanced pass and rush offense they seemed to give up what looked like a win that turned into a heartbreaking defeat with 43.8 seconds remaining in the football game.
Indy head football coach DJ McFadden when asked about the critical decision to pass on a 2nd down and 15 situation with just over a minute remaining in the game. the ball near the 25 yard line leading 35-28, why he made the decision to pass instead of staying with the ground game to run the clock out or kick a potential field goal, his response was, “I felt like we needed another score to win. We put the ball in our best players hand Justin Little, we just didn’t execute.” The play led to a pass interception at the 2 yard line, it was returned to the 43 giving the Cougars good field position with 57 seconds remaining in the football game. After a pass completion to TE Jack Larsen for a first down, QB Sean Boyle found a receiver who raced behind the safety for the touchdown with 44 seconds on the clock. The two point conversion was good for the 36-35 comeback victory.
The Cougars are a quick strike offense especially with their passing attack, they rely on the big play. While the Patriots are a grinding pounding offense with a balanced rushing and passing game matriculating the football down the field. The Patriots punish, wear down the oppositions defense in a ball controlled attack, taking advantage of a big play when the opportunity presents itself.
The Patriots started the scoring on their first possession methodically moving the football down field in their typical style. Sincere McIntyre, Emmanuel Teah and Justin Little combined for 33 rushing yards, WR Brian Crowder had a 19 yard reception, then took a pitch from QB Little for 19 yards, while Joshua Iseah smacked the ball across the goal line for the touchdown completing a 73 yard opening drive.
Indy on their next possession had another drive going, but a fumble by the Patriots in a key turnover put the Cougars in good field position. The opportunistic Cougars tied the football game with 1:16 remaining in the quarter at 7-7.
The Pats took possession after the kickoff return by Crowder to their own 35 yard line. McIntyre rushed for 5 yards, a personal foul on the Cougars advanced the ball another 10 yards, a QB keeper for another 5 yards, then Indy QB Little found an open Crowder who broke a tackle and dashed full speed into the end zone for Indy’s second score up 14-7.
On the ensuing kickoff a good return by the Cougars was negated when the football was popped loose by Indy kicker Daniel Locklear and recovered by the Patriots. However, the drive stalled on the 34 yard line. Charlotte Catholic took over on downs, but was unable to move the football, they took a shot deep, Indy’s Quentin Reddish deflected the pass away forcing a punt.
The Patriots took over on their own 20 yard line. They put together an 8 play 80 yard scoring drive pounding the ball with the offensive line firing off the football led by Center Zac Mangum in the middle of a solid unit moving the defensive line off the line of scrimmage. Good yardage gained by Shaun Soloman and Emmanuel Teah led to McIntyre rumbling for 34 yards for the score with 1:08 remaining in the first half taking a 21-7 advantage.
However, it was short lived. The potent quick strike Cougar offense connected on a 25 yard gain to Jacob Deller, followed by a screen pass for a big gainer, and the touchdown came when Griffin Sovine scored from 3 yards out making the game 21-13 at the half.
In the third quarter it was the Cougars who struck first to tie the game at 21-21. Cougar QB Boyle found TE Jack Larsen for the touchdown, while Griffin Sovine powered his way into the end zone for the two point conversion in just over two minutes capping off a 60 yard drive.
However, the Patriots would not be denied, a drive started on their own 28 yard line. The six minute drive took 14 plays to cover 72 yards for a touchdown. Pats QB Little found WR Crowder open for 25 yards putting Indy on top once again 28-21 with 4:10 remaining in the quarter.
Crowder returned a punt for 35 yards as the 3rd quarter was coming to an end giving the Patriots good field position. The offense drove the ball down to the 28 yard line of the Cougars. Khalil Hoke “Mini Fridge” took a handoff on a short yardage situation and obtained a first down. On the following play, QB Little found Jaylen Springs for a 26 yard touchdown giving the Pats a 35-21 lead.
With 7:54 remaining the Cougars put together a drive. The combination of Larsen, Deller and Sovine picked up big chucks of yardage with Sovine scoring the touchdown with 6:25 on the game clock making the score 35-28.
Now with 6:19 remaining from their own 24 yard line the Patriots matriculated the football down the field eating up the game clock picking up 3 first downs. With the ball on the Catholic 29 yard line, the Cougars used their second time out. Now with 1:14 remaining in the game, on second down, the Pats elected to go for the knock out punch, the pass was intercepted on the 2 yard line and returned to the Cougars 43. Catholic picked up 15 yards to Larsen, then QB Boyle went deep and found his receiver behind the defender for the game winning touchdown. The two point conversion was good and the unbelievable come from behind victory was complete.