MINT HILL, NC – For the third straight football game at the Big-I the Independence Patriots defeated a visiting opponent in convincing fashion 28-7 on Friday night. The Patriot football program has not began a season winning their first three football games to start a season since 2014.
Head football coach DJ McFadden and coaching staff have this team playing well and are building a strong foundation. They are changing and instilling a new culture at Indy who once were a powerhouse winning state championship titles. Coach McFadden was part of those teams and he understands what it takes to regain those glory years with a winning tradition.
The team played a solid football game on both sides of the ball including a much improved special teams and kicking game. However, the only negative remains to be addressed is reducing the amount of unnecessary penalty yards accumulated. Indy had a total of 17 penalties for over 180 yards. This takes discipline, situation awareness, execution, and good decision making by young men on the field playing a highly emotional game. Football is a physical game, however, it’s also a cerebral game, they must keep their emotions in check.
The Patriots struck first scoring a touchdown in the first quarter to take a early 7-0 lead. On their second offensive possession starting from their own 47 yard line, QB Justin Little connected with Sincere McIntyre for a 25 yard reception, then Little found TE William Brown for another 12 yards, a few plays later from the 5 yard line, McIntyre would run off tackle found a seam and dashed into the end zone for the score. The PAT was good by Daniel Locklear and Indy had momentum on their side.
In the final minutes of the 1st quarter, the Patriots began another drive near midfield from the 47 yard line of the Lions. They picked up a quick first down to the 37, but it appeared the drive might stall on the West Charlotte 35, an offsides penalty by the defense moved the ball 5 yards to the 30, then on 4th down and 3, a quick slant pass to Austin Cowick for 4 yards was enough for another Patriot first down. Indy would drive the ball down to inside the one yard line, on a 4th down and goal, Little hands off to the Indy’s version of the Chicago Bears “Refrigerator” Khalil Hoke “Mini Fridge” who blasted his way into the end zone for the touchdown. Hoke who is a starting DT, appears to have a new role as a FB in short yardage goal line situations. He can carry potential tacklers on his back, or become another big blocker clearing out a hole for the halfback to follow to pay dirt. This was a new wrinkle added into the game plan by the coaching staff that might pay dividends in future contests. Locklear drilled the PAT and Indy had a 14-0 edge.
The Patriots were clearly in control of this football game until they were forced to punt with 4:47 on the clock. The Lions took possession on Indy’s 40 yard line. They combined a couple of runs with two 16 yard receptions. The last 16 yard reception was a nice pass and catch play from QB Kamron Roberts to a Lion WR for the touchdown. The PAT cleared the uprights with 1:12 remaining in the half and the score 14-7. After the kickoff, Indy had poor field position, add another holding penalty, they ran out the clock to regroup.
In the 3rd quarter, Indy’s defense stepped up and took over the football game. They applied pressure on the Lions QB, and won the battle in the trenches causing some havoc and forcing a few mistakes by the visitors. On a 4th down punting situation, the Pats defensive line and linebackers hit the line of scrimmage with a big push forcing a bad snap from center, they recovered the fumble on the Lions 18 yard line in great field position. Indy QB Little connected on two pass plays, first to McIntyre for 6, then to Springs for 9 yards and a Patriot first down. Then from the 3 yard line Little scored the Pats third touchdown on a QB keeper to extend the home teams advantage. Locklear cleared the uprights and Indy now was ahead 21-7 with 10:01 remaining in the quarter.
Indy’s defense continued to dominate the second half. After the Pats were forced to punt and West Charlotte took over on their own 20 yard line. They moved the ball to the 25, however, they took a shot deep and Joshua Iseah made an excellent one handed interception from his LB position, and returned the football 51 yards for a touchdown in an exciting play. Locklear made the extra point and Indy had a 28-7 commanding lead with 9:07 remaining in the contest.
On the next possession, Quentin Reddish recovers a Lions fumble on their own 30 yard line. McIntyre rumbles for 19 yards on first down, but three consecutive penalties by the the Pats stalled the drive. A 12 yard pass reception to TE Brown moved the ball closer for a long field goal attempt by Lyric Kopera, the kick fell just short of the center post as he did not get his strong leg into the football.
The Patriots will play away next Friday night against Hopewell at 7:00 pm and will try to remain undefeated extending their winning streak.