MINT HILL, NC – In a game where both teams split their dominance over their opponent was determined by which half of the football each team played. The Independence Patriots owned the first half taking a commanding 16-0 lead, while the Ravens virtually mounted no offensive threat to seriously score points. The Patriots defense completely shut down the Ravens with some excellent play by a defensive front who controlled the line of scrimmage. The Indy defenders applied pressure on Ravens QB Kamen Carson throughout the half. In particular, Josh Iseah collected two QB sacks, Jaylen Springs had a huge third-down stop, Elijah Puranda added a fumble recovery, Taylor Russ blocked a punt, and Ronnell Garrett made his presence known.
Meanwhile, offensively Kahill Morrison had some big gainers rushing for over 50 yards with his longest a 27-yard scamper. Patriot QB Arnold Taylor led a balanced offense on two solid drives with the opening drive ending with a Ryan Howe 34 yard field goal giving the home team an early 3-0 lead.
The next score came in the second quarter was set-up by Taylor Russ who blocked a Ravens punt giving the Patriots the ball on the Ravens 38 yard line. The QB connected on a 20-yard pass reception to Bryson Tisdale, then Morrison rushed for 9 yards, Taylor ran a quarterback keeper to the 2-yard line on third down, then on fourth and goal from the two, Amari Hakeem carried the ball into the end zone giving the Patriots a 9-0 lead. The two-point conversion failed which will eventually come back to haunt the Patriots in the end.
The Patriot’s next score came later in the second quarter on a drive that saw Arnold Taylor connect on a 17-yard reception and rush for 18 yards. However, the drive would falter on a third-down stop by a staunch Ravens defense. The Patriots sent out Ryan Howe for the field goal attempt from 27 yards, but the Patriots had another idea up their sleeves. What looked like a fake field goal attempt on a high snap, and Howe going through his kicking motion, holder Josiah Perez, popped up looking downfield to find Cyrus Sanders wide open down the middle of the field for an easy touchdown. Howe made the PAT giving the Patriots a 16-0 advantage with under 3 minutes remaining in the half.
After the longer-than-normal intermission due to the Homecoming festivities, it quickly became apparent the coaching staff at Rocky River took full advantage of the extra time and made the necessary adjustments. The Ravens were a different football team, they dominated the second half and scored on their first possession along with making the two-point conversion to get within striking distance 16-8. The Ravens defense became more aggressive and held the Patriots scoreless until the final minute of the contest.
In the fourth period, the Ravens QB Khalil Archie engineered another TD with 10:41 on the scoreboard clock in the game on completion to WR Antjuan “A.J.” Collins. The two-point conversion was good on an off-tackle rush and the game was now tied at 16-16.
On the next possession, the Patriots finally put together a drive where QB Arnold Taylor ran hard with a lot of determination for 15 and 30-yard quarterback keepers punishing Ravens defenders. The drive stalled, and on fourth down Ryan Howe would miss a 29-yard field goal attempt just wide with plenty of distance. Another missed opportunity for the home team.
The Ravens would get the ball again with 2:26 remaining, they would matriculate the ball downfield with good clock management. Then with .53 seconds remaining QB Archie would connect with WR Kalib Jennings for the winning TD giving the Ravens a 24-16 edge with time running out for the Patriots. The two-point conversion was good again.
On the kick-off, the Patriots would get the ball out to their own 40-yard line to begin the final drive. On the first play, QB Taylor would find Bryson Tisdale 5 yards open, he would catch him in full stride taking the ball to the house completing a 60 yard TD play.
The Patriots called a time-out, they came out with what looked like a single-wing formation to tie the game sending it into overtime. However, the snap was not handled cleanly and the ball was recovered by the Ravens. The ensuing on-side kick was bobbled but recovered by the Ravens to secure the victory.