When asked after the game if this was a marquee win for his Hough football team, coach Bobby Collins answered quickly: Yes.
The Huskies (4-0), ranked No. 3 in the Observer Sweet 16 and No. 9 in the N.C. 4A Associated Press poll, beat Independence 28-27 at home Friday night in a game that was decided by a missed extra point.
I told the kids weve got one goal: trying to get to the state championship, Collins said. Teams are going to get in our way, adversity is going to come but were trying to get to the state championship.
Yes, this is a feather in the hat. We hadnt beaten them yet.
Independence (3-2) trailed Hough 21-14 at halftime but scored on a 16-yard run by junior quarterback Kelvin Hopkins in the third quarter and on a 16-yard run by senior running back Isaiah Robinson (84 yards on 13 carries) early in the fourth quarter to take the lead with 9 minutes, 28 seconds left.
But a missed extra point after the second score meant the Patriots lead was six: 27-21.
Hough moved the ball 77 yards on its next drive, scoring on an 8-yard run by Tylan Murrell with 5:29 left in the game. The extra point by senior kicker Tim Gawert was the margin of victory.
I told my guys its Friday night football, Collins said about what he told his players before the winning drive. This is what you look for. Now youre in a dog fight. ... We didnt want to disappoint.
Independence, ranked No. 8 in both the Sweet 16 and N.C. 4A AP poll, was forced to punt on its next drive, and Hough ran out the clock, largely on runs by Murrell. The senior finished with 180 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries despite not starting the game because of a coaching decision, according to Collins.
The starting running back, senior Will McIntyre, added 70 yards rushing and a touchdown. Hough senior quarterback Josh Stilley was 7 of 18 passing for 91 yards and a touchdown.
For what we do on offense, weve got to stay balanced, Collins said. We want to be able to throw the football as much as we run it. Weve got a four-year starter at the quarterback (Stilley), weve got a senior at the tailback position (Murrell) and some good wide receivers out there. And Ive got to give much credit to my offensive line. When it was crunch time, those guys said, Coach, put it on our back.
The teams traded scores early.
Independences first drive went 85 yards and ended on an 8-yard pass touchdown pass from Hopkins to senior Jamiek Davis.
Houghs tied the score early in the second quarter on a 20-yard pass from Stilley to junior Carl Tucker.
Independence answered on the next drive when Hopkins (10 of 20 for 178 yards and two touchdowns) found Davis again for a 64-yard touchdown pass to give the Patriots a 14-7 lead with 8:30 left in the half.
Hough took the 21-14 halftime lead after with two unanswered scores in the second quarter, a 7-yard run by McIntyre and a 1-yard run by Murrell.
The loss was the second straight for Independence after falling to West Mecklenburg by seven last week.
I told them they didnt have anything to hang their heads down about, Independence coach Joe Evans said. Houghs a great football team, you know. They battled to the end ... we just came out on the short end tonight.
Inscoe: 704-358-5923; Twitter: @CoreyInscoe
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