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Butler beats rival Independence in a 43-42 thriller

There were four touchdowns, three lead changes and two successful two-point conversions in the final three minutes of Friday’s game between Butler and Independence.

The margin of victory was a missed extra point with no time left in the game.

The Bulldogs (9-2, 5-1) beat the Patriots 43-42 at Independence to finish tied for first in the Southwestern 4A conference with Rocky River.

Rocky River will earn the top seed from the conference after beating Porter Ridge Friday and beating Butler earlier this season.

“This is a rivalry game. These are the things that happen,” Butler coach Brian Hales said. “This is the kids, this ain’t coaching. Kids did all this stuff. ... It’s just a great night to be out here.”

Independence (7-4, 4-2) had a 21-12 lead at halftime. The teams traded scores throughout the first half and Butler failed to convert on a two-point conversion and missed an extra point.

The Bulldogs scored 16 unanswered points in the second half to take a 28-21 lead over the Patriots early in the fourth quarter.

The first score came when Jalen Cousar sacked Independence quarterback Kelvin Hopkins in the end zone for a safety in the third quarter.

Butler’s Clifton Duck scored on a 50-yard punt return five minutes later to bring the Bulldogs within one after a failed two-point conversion.

The Bulldogs took the lead on a 16-yard pass from Anthony Ratliff to Benjamin LeMay less than two minutes into the fourth quarter. A successful two point conversion gave Butler a 28-21 lead.

“At halftime we went down there and the kids were down and they were hanging their heads,” Hales said. “And Todjrei (Graham) and Clifton Duck and a bunch of the kids just brought them together. It’s nothing the coaches did, the kids brought them together.”

Independence’s Isaiah Robinson scored on a 9-yard run to tie the game at 28 with 6:12 left, setting up the eventful final three minutes.

Butler regained the lead with a 15-yard pass from Ratliff to Jordan Huntley with 2:53 left.

The Patriots drove down the field and answered with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Hopkins to Workpeh Kofa with 1:12 left. Down 35-34, Independence went for the two-point conversion and converted it with a pass from Hopkins to Cole Furr.

The Patriots led 36-35.

Butler wasted no time answering. Ratliff found Duck for a 40-yard completion to get down to the Independence 20 yard line. The Bulldogs scored two plays later on a 13-yard pass from Ratliff to Alex Barrow.

A successful two-point conversion gave Butler a 43-36 lead with 39 seconds left.

Independence used four plays and a pass interference call to get all the way down to the Butler 8 yard line with two seconds left in the game. Hopkins found Kofa in the endzone again to pull the Patriots to within one.

The Patriots put their offense on the field to go for the win with no time left in regulation, but a delay of game penalty backed them up five yards. Independence opted to kick and the attempt by Ryan Brush was wide left.

“I’ve waited for this moment for a long time, to be able to step up and lead these guys the way I did,” Ratliff said. “This is a great team. I love these boys to death.”

Inscoe: 704-358-5923; Twitter: @CoreyInscoe
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