CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Independence Patriots entered their Southwestern 4A showdown at Ardrey Kell feeling as though no one gave them a chance to knock off the unbeaten Knights on their field.
Independence, No. 13 in the Observer Sweet 16, dominated the first half and took a 35-0 lead before settling for a 35-7 win Friday over No. 15 Ardrey Kell.
“We can’t play any better than that (first half),” Patriots coach Bill Geiler said. “I like the role of underdog and that’s what we were tonight, according to everyone but these kids.”
It was intense even before the game, as the teams had to be separated during pregame warm-ups.
When the game started, Independence (5-1 overall, 2-0 SW4A) scored on its second possession when Jason Connella completed a 29-yard fade pass to Dequan Barnes for a touchdown.
Independence’s second possession was all Isiah Robinson. The junior running back ran the ball on all five plays, gaining 80 yards and scoring on a 30-yard run with one minute, 22 seconds left in the quarter for a 14-0 Independence lead. Robinson finished with 224 yards rushing on 23 carries.
The score was still 14-0 until late in the second quarter when Independence put the game away. Connella threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Workpeh Kofa with 2:45 left to extend the lead to 21-0, then the senior quarterback hit Barnes for a 12-yard score with 19 seconds left in the quarter for a 28-0 lead.
Ardrey Kell (4-1, 1-1) looked to have a bit of life when it returned the kickoff to the Patriots’ 28, but Adonis Alexander picked off quarterback Nathan Turnbow on the final play of the half and returned the pick for an 80-yard back-breaking touchdown. In the first half Independence outgained Ardrey Kell 277 yards to 78.
There was some drama late, as Independence’s Kofa and Ardrey Kell’s Johnny Moore were ejected with a minute remaining after getting into a fight. Then Connella threw a pass into the end zone on the next play instead of taking a knee. The pass was incomplete and Independence then ran out the clock.
That’s common sense stuff and shouldn’t have happened,” Geiler said. “We don’t coach that and don’t condone it.”
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