Patriots defeat Hopewell 54-19 in home opener

Patriots QB Luke McPhail looking downfield for an open receiver. Max Moise blocking. (Ron Morris)
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On an emotional night at Independence High School these young men and their coaching staff did an outstanding job in keeping this team focused and motivated to deliver an excellent display of football on the gridiron.  This team showed true grit at a difficult time of tragedy, their inspiration and determination showed on the field.

Antwan Watson rushing through big hole. (Ron Morris)

After the initial kickoff return by the Titans to the Patriot 20 yard line they tried to strike quickly, however, Caleb Legrand made the interception in the end zone for the touchback to give the Patriots a first down on their own 20.  Independence quarterback Luke McPhail would complete his first pass of the game for a 12 yard pick-up.  The drive would continue down inside the red zone.  On a third down from the four yard line McPhail would complete his first touchdown of the season connecting with wide receiver Shai Wheeler for the score.  The two point conversion was successful and the Pats had an early 8-0 lead.

Quihmari McCall makes tackle on Titans QB. (Ron Morris)

After the Patriots defense stopped the Titans on a fourth down play at the 45 yard line, senior running back Antwan Watson would scamper for a 40 yard gain.  On a first down from the 15 yard line McPhail would connect with Brian Morgan for the touchdown.  The Patriots are up 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.

Patriots QB connecting on one of six TD’s. (Ron Morris)

In the second quarter with 11:49 on the game clock the Titans QB would scamper 23 yards for a touchdown making the game 14-6 as the PAT was missed.  On the ensuing kickoff Shai Wheeler would return the ball down to the Patriots 29 yard line.  In the drive, McPhail would connect with Shai Wheeler again for a 51 yard TD play.  The PAT was good, but was nullified due to an illegal shift penalty, the second attempt was wide left.  After another drive McPhail would connect with wide receiver Brian Morgan for a TD.  McPhail would later complete a 45 yard pass play to Shai Wheeler again for his fifth touchdown pass of the first half giving the Patriots a commanding 34-12 advantage.

Antwan Watson scores TD for Patriots. (Ron Morris)

In the second half the defense did a good job in stopping the Titans.  They applied a lot of pressure with a strong pass rush on the Titans quarterback.  Jonathan Strickland stood out on the defensive unit with two sacks on the night with multiple tackles.  RJ Spivey, Dante Anderson, Tyson Clawson, Zack Repak and the entire unit played solid defensive football.  Also, the young inexperienced offensive line did a great job in protecting McPhail all night led by senior offensive linemen Dillon Tweed and Jake Detter.

McPhail would connect for his sixth and final touchdown pass from the two yard line with 8 minutes remaining in the third quarter.  The Patriots are now up 40-19.  The Titans would answer to make the score 40-19 at the end of three quarters.

Patriots Shai Wheeler breaking into the secondary for a big gain. (Ron Morris)

In the fourth quarter, Antwan Watson would rush for a 34 yard touchdown running over Titans into the end zone.  Then with 9:16 on the game clock Watson would break loose and streak down the sidelines for the final score of the game giving the Patriots a convincing 54-19 victory.

Putting heat on Titans QB. (Ron Morris)

Head Coach Natoli was very proud of his team and how they responded under tremendous pressure.  “We told Luke McPhail he is carrying a lot of weight on his shoulders, Antwan Watson was amazing, he did not play much as a junior and when Amarray Green went down in the Crest scrimmage he stepped up, he absolutely performed tonight, he is a poster boy for hard work, never complained, waited for his opportunity and made the most of it,  I’m so happy for that kid,” said Coach Natoli.  “Dealing with tragedy is extremely difficult, the way we responded is just a tribute to the character of this team and our coaching staff.”

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Ed Berti
Ed is retired and remains active as a freelance writer, local journalist and independent contractor. He is engaged in print and electronic media writing stories covering business, sports, hometown news and veteran's affairs including articles of interest to various media outlets. Ed is a graduate of Wagner College where he earned an MBA and holds a BBA from Pace University.
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