They’re no longer unscored-on. But Independence football coach Joe Evans says he’s fine with his team still being unbeaten and untied.
“We’ll take the win,” he said Friday night after the Patriots (5-0), ranked No. 3 in the Observer’s Sweet 16, held off a fourth-quarter rally by No. 9 Hough for a 27-17 non-conference victory at home. “But you’ve got to finish against good teams if you want to make the playoffs and compete for state championships.”
The Huskies (2-2) became the first team to put points on the scoreboard against Independence, which had outscored its first four opponents 145-0. But they couldn’t overcome a 21-3 second-half deficit despite scoring two late touchdowns – handicapped in part by committing 17 penalties for 170 yards.
Quarterback Kelvin Hopkins rushed for touchdowns of 1, 6 and 10 yards to lead the Patriots’ attack on a night when neither team rolled up stellar offensive totals.
Hough senior running back Bishop Ford rushed 16 times for 135 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown run with about three minutes left in the game.
“They’re a tough team, and we knew this game would be a challenge,” Evans said.
But the Patriots led pretty comfortably for most of the first three quarters. Hopkins finished a 52-yard drive with a 1-yard scoring run with about 2 minutes left in the first quarter.
The Huskies scored the first points of the season against the Independence defense when Zach Stearns kicked a 27-yard field goal with 8 minutes and 14 seconds left before halftime. That broke a 17-quarter shutout streak.
But the Patriots put together a last-minute drive, scoring on a 4-yard run by A.J. Peal with 13 seconds left in the half for a 14-3 lead at the break.
“We did a great job in the first half, but we just got too comfortable,” Evans said. “We tried to take what their defense gave us, but our passing was just off. Our defense was as good as it’s been, but we put them in some tough spots.”
One was in a ragged third quarter when Hopkins was stopped at his own 30 on a fake punt attempt that Evans said wasn’t intended to be a fake. But Hough lost 15 yards in three plays and couldn’t take advantage.
Still, the Patriots took a 21-3 advantage to the fourth quarter on a 6-yard TD run by Hopkins.
A 2-yard touchdown run by Van Smith brought Hough to within 21-9 with 10:48 to play, but Hopkins ended another drive with a 10-yard touchdown run for a 27-9 lead.
Ford’s 47-yarder with 2:48 left provided the final margin, as the Huskies couldn’t recover the ensuing onsides kick.