The 2019 football season for Independence opened Monday evening at North Mecklenburg High School after the game was rained out the previous Friday night.
The Vikings took the opening kick off, returned it to their own 28 yard line and moved the ball down to Independence’s 36 yard line. Indy’s defense held and North Meck faced a fourth and six. The Vikings lined up to go for the first down but jumped off sides. After the five yard penalty, the Vikings sent in their punt team. Indy’s Brevin Caldwell singled for a fair catch, and Indy took over on its own ten yard line.
On Indy’s first play from scrimmage junior running back Davion Nelson ran for a 22 yard gain. A few plays later Nelson picked up another first down running out to Indy’s 38 yard line. On the next play Indy’s quarterback Arnold Taylor handed off to Nelson who ran off tackle for 35 yards down to the Vikings five yard line. The Patriots scored on its next play, but the two point conversion was no good. Indy took a 6-0 lead with five minutes left to go in the first quarter.
On the ensuing kick off North Meck took over on its own 24 yard line. Indy’s Taejuan Smith and Tyson Clawson led the Indy defense in moving the ball back to the 15 yard line making it fourth and twenty. The Vikings punted and Brevin Caldwell made the fair catch on the 46 with 3:02 left in the first quarter.
Indy was unable to move the ball and had to punt.
North Meck moved the ball across mid field to Indy’s 45 yard line. On the next play the Vikings’ quarterback ran around the right end for the 45 yard touchdown. The point after gave the Vikings a 7-6 lead with 38 seconds left in the first quarter.
After taking the lead, the Vikings’ kick off was fielded by Indy’s Shai Wheeler on his own ten yard line. Wheeler headed to the right side of the field and picked up some good blocks which allowed him to hit the open field for a 90 yard touchdown run. After Alex Collins’ successful extra point, Indy re-took the lead 13-7 with 25.4 seconds left in the first period.
As the second quarter got under way, the Vikings had to punt, and Indy took over on its own 32 yard line. Indy moved the ball down field on a long pass from quarterback Arnold Taylor to Trevor Bryan, but the drive stalled on the 16 yard line where Indy turned the ball over on downs.
North Meck moved the ball to Indy’s 45 yard line. On the next play flags covered the field as both teams were whistled for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The Vikings completed a pass down to Indy’s 28 yard line where the receiver fumbled the ball, and Indy’s Omar Zazueta recovered the loose ball stopping the Viking drive with 4:16 showing on the clock.
After the turnover and with 3:40 showing on the clock, Indy quarterback Arnold Taylor hit Trevor Bryan for a 72 yard touchdown pass. Davion Nelson ran in for the two point conversion to make the score 21-7 with 3:40 left in the first half.
Following the Indy kick off, North Meck started pushing the ball down the field. However, Indy’s Sirr Robinson put a stop to the drive by physically taking the ball away from the North Meck runner and returned the ball to Indy’s 36 yard line with 3:06 to go in the second quarter.
Indy’s next drive came to an end when the Patriots fumbled the ball, and the Vikings recovered the ball on their own 33 yard line with 2:05 left in the first half.
North Meck had trouble mounting any offense, and Indy’s Tyson Clawson ended the possession by sacking the quarterback to make it fourth and long for the Vikings. However on their punt attempt, the Patriots were called for roughing the kicker giving the Vikings a first down.
After the penalty, the Vikings were moving the ball down the field until Indy’s Shai Wheeler intercepted a pass on the 15 yard line and returned the ball to the 30 yard line. A five yard penalty moved the ball back to the 25 yard line. With 48 seconds left in the first half, the left side of Indy’s offense line opened a big hole for Davion Nelson who make a 30 yard touchdown run. With Alex Collins’ point after kick, the Patriots took a 28-7 half time lead.
Indy took the second half kick off to its own 33 yard line. After a short pass and a fumble, Indy came up with a second and eight. Davion Nelson took a hand off down to the Vikings’ 35 yard line. The next play was a quarterback keeper down to the 19 yard line. On Indy’s next play, North Meck picked off a pass in the end-zone and brought it out to its own 25 yard line with 10:55 to go in the period.
With 9:13 showing on the clock, the Vikings scored on a 41 yard touchdown pass. Indy blocked the extra point to make the score 28-13.
On the ensuing kick off Indy took over on their own 25 yard line with 9:09 to go in the third quarter. Indy’s Brevin Caldwell picked up the first down on a short pass from Arnold Taylor.
Nelson ran off tackle to move the ball down to North Meck’s 26 yard line. On Indy’s next possession, Arnold Taylor threw into the end-zone to Trevor Bryan who was being covered by a Viking defender. Both players went up for the ball, and Bryan out fought the defender to make the touchdown catch giving Indy a 34-13 lead with 6:46 left in the third quarter. The point after was no good and the score stood at 34-17.
After the Indy kick off, North Meck moved the ball out to mid-field. North Meck connected for a touchdown pass, but the play was called back for an offensive push off. After the penalty, the Vikings moved the ball down to Indy’s 20 yard line.
With 3:19 left in the third period, North Meck scored on a touchdown pass play but missed on the two point attempt making the score 34-19.
Neither team added any more third quarter points and the teams headed into the final period with Indy leading 34-19.
At the start of the fourth quarter Davion Nelson ran off tackle for a the touchdown. Alex Collins’ point after was good, and Indy took a 41-19 lead with 11:55 left in the game.
At the 6:24 mark the Vikings were facing a fourth and 16 on Indy’s 34 yard line. The Vikings offense lined up and threw into the end-zone for the score. The point after kick was good to make the score 41-26.
The Vikings then attempted an onside kick which hit one of Indy’s up men and was recovered by the Vikings with 6:11 left to go in the game.
North Meck threw a 41 yard touchdown pass, but the play was called back for holding. The Vikings attempted another pass, but Indy’s Elijah Puranda picked off the pass giving Indy the ball with 4:20 left to play.
With a 1:57 left in the game, Indy’s Khalil Morrison ran off left tackle for a 50 yard touchdown run to make the score 47-26.
Indy’s defense held for a four and eleven and took over on the 30 yard line with one minute left to play. Coach Natoli called for the victory formation. Arnold Taylor took a knee on the next two plays to run out the clock giving Indy a 47-26 opening victory.
After the game, Coach Natoli told his team, “What we have been through and where we are today is impossible. The odds on what we have done is zero. Nobody thought we could do it. Nobody thought we would still be standing. I just can’t tell you people how proud of you guys we are; proud of you trusting the process, sticking to the plan and executing the game plan. You made the adjustments when needed, and we are so proud of you.”
“Two funerals in my life last year (Flash and the Coach’s mother) was the hardest year in my life. I was ready to step away from the game for a while, but you guys saved me and brought me back. You brought this program back so let’s go and win the rest of them. How about that?”
Independence 13 15 6 13 – 47
North Meck 7 0 12 7 – 26