Independence spoils homecoming for the Wildcats

Luke McPhail drops back to pass and is protected by his offensive line. (Ron Morris)
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On Friday night the Independence Patriots traveled to Garinger High School to take on the Wildcats.

Friday was Garinger’s homecoming night.  However, the Patriots spoiled the homecoming celebration by beating the Wildcats 27-7.

After an early Indy drive failed, Garinger took Indy’s punt and drove the ball down to Indy’s 30 yard line but they were short of the first down marker.  Garinger faced a fourth and short.  The Wildcats got the call to go for the first down.  Indy’s defense held, and the Patriots took over on their own 30 with five minutes left in the first quarter.

Indy’s defense meets at the quarterback. (Ron Morris)

Indy moved the ball to Garinger’s 45 on a Luke McPhail to Shai Wheeler pass. The Patriots picked up ten more yards to the 35 on a McPhail to Bryan Morgan pass reception.  The drive failed after two incomplete passes and a quarterback sack.   Indy had to punt the ball away.  Garinger did not field the ball but instead let the ball hit the ground and roll toward the end zone.  A Garinger player failed to get away from the ball and it touched the Wildcats player.  Indy’s Omar Zazueta recovered the loose ball, and Indy took possession on the five yard line with 2:20 left in the first quarter.

On the next play Indy’s Antwan Watson ran off tackle for the touchdown to take a 7-0 lead with 2:15 remaining in the first quarter. On the ensuing kickoff Garinger’s Xzavius Staten picked up the loose ball and returned it 95 yards for the the touchdown tying the score 7-7 with 2:01 showing on the clock.

AmaraRay Green fights for yardage. (Ron Morris)

After the Wildcats kick off, Indy moved into Garinger territory on a pass to Trevor Bryan with 22 seconds left in the quarter.  On the next play McPhail found Brian Morgan getting the ball to the six yard line with 13.4 seconds remaining.  On the next play from scrimmage, McPhail threw to Bryan who went to his knees in an effort to make the catch but was unable to do so. After the play was over and Bryan still on his knees, a Garinger defender put a hard hit on Bryan from behind as time ran out.  Under rule, the quarter cannot end on a penalty.  Following the walk off for unnecessary roughness, Indy got an additonal play from the nine yard line.  The Patriots ran an off tackle play to the four yard line as the first quarter ended in a 7-7 tie.

On the first play in the second quarter,  McPhail pitched to Shai Wheeler who got the ball down to the goal line.  McPhail ran the quarterback sneak in for the score.  However, a false start was called against the Patriots and the touchdown was waved off moving the ball back to the five yard line.  With Indy facing a third and goal, McPhail hit Wheeler in the end zone for the touchdown making the score 14-7 with 11:34 left in the first half.

On the kick off the Patriots kicked the ball out-of-bounds and Garinger took over on their own 35 yard line.  Garinger started a drive and moved into Indy’s territory.  Garinger threw a long pass that ended up with both an Indy and Garinger player coming down with the ball.  The ball was awarded to the Wildcats on the six yard line.  On the next play Garinger was called for a personal foul that moved the ball back to the 25 yard line.  Garinger’s quarterback Lashawn Audrey connected with Keishawn Hatchett to move the ball down to the five yard line.  On a third and goal, Indy’s Donnell Garrett broke into the Wildcat’s backfield and made the tackle for a big loss.  With a fourth and goal from the 15 yard line, Garinger took a time out to set up the play.  Again, Indy’s defense held and the Patriots took over on the 12 yard line with 8:30 remaining in the second quarter.

The Patriots were unable to move the ball and had to punt.  The punt was short and took a Garinger bounce rolling back to Indy’s 25 yard line before being downed by the Patriots.  Again Indy’s defense was backed up on their own 25 yard line.  However, the defense gave up only two yards forcing the Wildcats into a fourth and seven from the 23.  The Wildcats took a shot into the end zone,  but the pass was incomplete giving Indy the ball on their own 23 with 6:09 left in the second period.

Head Coach Mike Natoli asked for an explanation. (Ron Morris)

AmarRay Green took the hand off and ran off tackle to Garinger’s 29 yard line.  Indy was unable to pick up a first down and faced a fourth and seven from the 24.  McPhail’s pass was picked off, and the Wildcats took over on their own 20 yard line with 3:31 left in the first half.

The Wildcats couldn’t manage any offense as Indy sacked their quarterback on the 15 yard line forcing a punt with 1:29 remaining on the clock.

After the punt Indy took possession at mid-field and started a drive,  but Garinger’s Malcolm Bailey picked off a McPhail pass on the ten and returned it to the 24 yard line with 25.1 seconds left in the first half.  The Wildcats chose to let the time run out, and the first half ended with Indy leading 14-7.

Indy’s Shai Wheeler scores on a touchdown pass from Luke McPhail. (Ron Morris)

Early in the third quarter Garinger went for the first down, and again Indy’s defense held. The Patriots took over on their own 35 yard line with 9:16 left in the third.

The Patriots got a drive started as McPhail connected with Bryan to the 24 yard line.  On the next play McPhail threw into the end zone, but the pass was incomplete.  Indy ran a a quarterback option, and McPhail pitched out to Watson who got the ball down to the five yard line.  Watson took the ball up the middle to the two yard line.  McPhail took it into the end zone on a quarterback sneak with 6:57 showing in the third period.

Indy lined up for the two point conversion. Wheeler attempted a pass to Bryan that was incomplete as Indy increased their lead to 20-7 with 6:57 left in the third quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff Garinger got the ball on their own 19 yard line.  Again Garinger found itself in a fourth and short situation, and again Indy held to take over with 1:20 left in the third. The quarter ended with Indy leading 20-7.

With 5:45 left in the game, Garinger faced a fourth and five.  The Wildcats’ pass was incomplete, and again Indy took over on downs.With 3:45 left in the final period, McPhail went to Wheeler for a 22 yard touchdown making the score 27-7.

Garinger made a final attempt to score.  The Wildcats got the ball down to Indy’s 20 yard line but two back-to-back penalties moved them back to the 35 yard line.  Garinger’s last play was an incomplete pass. The Patriots took over on their own 35 yard line with 1:25 left to play.

Indy goes into victory formation and runs out the clock. (Ron Morris)

The Patriots went into victory formation, and McPhail took three consecutive knees as Indy ran out the clock taking the Southwestern 4A Conference win and improving their record to 5-3.

On Friday night Independence will host cross town rival Rocky River.  This will be Indy’s last home game of the season.  Coach Natoli invites all of Indy Nation to come out and support the team as the Patriots will celebrate their seniors.  Kick off is scheduled for 7:00 pm.

Independence   7  7  6  7  –  27

Garinger            7  0  0  0  –   7

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