MINT HILL, NC – On Friday night the Independence Patriots football team opened their home season by hosting the West Charlotte Lions in a non-conference game in front of a good and loud crowd. The Patriots’ Jeremiah Palmer took the opening kickoff on the 9-yard line and was stopped on Indy’s 30-yard line. On a third-down play, Indy’s Amari Hakeem pick up the first down but the drive stalled at Indy’s 43-yard line and the Patriots had to punt the ball away. The Lions started their first possession on their own 32-yard line. On their first play from scrimmage, Indy’s Khalil Hoke stopped the runner in his tracks with a hard tackle for no gain. However, the Lions did pass for a first down and a face mask penalty against the Patriots moved the ball to Indy’s 45-yard line.
The Patriots’ defense held the Lions at the 45-yard line and forced them to punt with 8:09 left in the first quarter. Indy started their next possession on its own 8-yard line, but again was unable to move the ball and punted back to West Charlotte. It became clear that this was turning into a defensive game with neither team able to mount any offense. The big defensive play in the first quarter came with 18 seconds showing on the game clock. Indy’s Joe Reddish picked off a West Charlotte pass on the Indy’s 35-yard line and returned it to mid-field. After the interception, Indy’s offense moved the ball down to the Lions’ 33-yard line as the first quarter came to an end with neither team posting any points.On Indy’s first play in the second quarter, quarterback Cameron Kromah completed a pass to the 20-yard line.
Indy’s receiver refused to go down and continued to fight for extra yardage but, unfortunately, West Charlotte stripped the ball and the Lions came up with the loose pigskin on their own 15-yard line stopping the Indy drive with 9:51 left in the first half. After the fumble recovery, the game returned into a punting contest and the first half ended in a scoreless tie.
Independence kicked off to start the second half, and West Charlotte returned the kick to its own 45-yard line. But once again they were not able to move the ball and punted. With 10:04 showing on the clock and Indy starting from its own 23-yard line, Indy’s Shaun Soloman took a handoff from Kromah and ran off tackle. The Lions’ defense stopped Soloman and stood him up at the 30-yard line. Soloman refused to go down, and continued fighting broke loose from the Lions’ defense and ran to West Charlotte’s 3-yard line before being stopped.
On the next play Indy’s Kaden Thomas went off tackle for the 3-yard touchdown run giving Indy a 6-0 lead with 9:27 let in the third. The Patriots lined up for the point after but faked the kick. West Charlotte made the stop and the 2-point conversion was no good with Independence leading 6-0. After the touchdown, the Lions mounted a drive that took them down to Indy’s 23-yard line. Facing a fourth down and six, the Lions attempted a pass that was broken up by Indy’s defense at the goal line, and the Patriots took over with 4:36 left in the third quarter.
With a 1:43 left in the third period, Indy had moved out to West Charlotte’s 40-yard line. The Patriots faced a fourth and short and decided to go for the first down. The Patriots attempted a quick slant pattern, but the Lions made the defensive stop. The third quarter ended with Indy leading 6-0.
After stopping the Patriots and taking over on downs, the Lions started the fourth quarter on the offensive side of the ball. With 11:11 showing on the clock, West Charlotte threw a touchdown pass into the end zone to tie the score 6-6. The Lions lined up for the extra point which was good and gave West Charlotte a 7-6 lead. Indy took the ensuing kickoff out to its own 21-yard line. Indy’s drive stalled at its own 40-yard line, and the Patriots had to punt with 7:19 remaining in the game. The Lions took over on their own 30-yard line and drove the ball to their 46-yard line. After picking up a first down, West Charlotte’s quarterback dropped back and connected to the Lions’ Endai McDowell for a 54-yard scoring catch. With a successful 2-point conversion, West Charlotte extended it’s lead to 15-6 with 4:52 left in the game.
On the ensuing kickoff, Indy got the ball out to its own 45-yard line with 4:30 showing on the clock but failed to advance and kicked it away.
West Charlotte took over with 2:35 left in the game. Indy held and forced the Lions to punt giving Indy the ball on its own 22-yard line with 1:20 to play in the game. A long pass from Indy’s Cameron Kromah to Vontrez Burch got the ball down to West Charlotte’s 15-yard line with 15 seconds left in the game. Independence ran a crossing pattern, but West Charlotte’s Endai McDowell made the game-winning interception at the 5-yard line. West Charlotte took a 15-6 non-conference win to spoil Indy’s home opener. Next week Independence (0-2) will host Hopewell (1-2). The kickoff will be at 7:00 pm at Independence High School.