Independence entered Friday night’s game against Rocky River well aware of who they will be playing next week when they take on archrival, Butler.
But the Patriots proved they were completely focused on Rocky River, as they rolled to a 45-13 victory.
The Patriots’ victory sets up a showdown between Independence (7-3, 5-0) and Butler (8-2, 4-1), where the Southwestern 4A conference title will be on the line.
Independence came out a bit sluggish offensively until senior cornerback Cedric Stone picked a pass off and ran it back 85 yards for a score just 2 minutes, 15 seconds into the game.
The Patriots didn’t get on the board again until midway through the second quarter when junior kicker Caleb Ritch booted a 33-yard field goal to put them up 10-0.
But Independence seized all the momentum in the game in the final 3:27 of the first half.
First, Patriots senior quarterback Christian McPhail found Elijah Small wide open in the middle of the field on a 44-yard touchdown pass.
On the ensuing drive, Rocky River quarterback Phillip Clay gave the ball right back to Independence with an interception by Patriots sophomore Jaylen Riley.
Three plays later, Independence senior wideout Duane Perkins made a nifty one-handed catch and eluded a Ravens’ defender and took it 53 yards for a touchdown.
The Patriots rolled from there as McPhail went 10 for 17 passing for 175 yards and three touchdowns.
Perkins was his top target catching five balls for 95 yards and two touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Stone energized the team from all over, adding an 82-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to go with his pick-six.
Rocky River junior quarterback Tyshawn Carter went 11-for-21 for 101 passing yards and a touchdown, while also rushing for 63 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.
Quote: “Honestly, we take it one week at a time on this team. Part of the process of us getting better all year has been just focusing on our next game. You want to peak at the right time, and be playing your best football this time of year.” –Justin Hardin, Independence football coach on his team’s focus.
Records: Independence 7-3, 5-0 Southwestern 4A; Rocky River 3-7, 2-3.
Worth mentioning: Independence has won five straight games (all SW4A conference games) by a combined score of 164-41. … Patriots sophomore safety Jaylen Riley might not have been the star of the game Friday night, but he was certainly a highlight. On June 23, 2014, Riley had open heart surgery. Friday night, Riley had an interception that set up a first-half touchdown. … Butler-Independence is certain to be another tight game. In their last three meetings, Butler has outscored Independence 117-115.
What’s next: Independence hosts Butler next Friday night (Nov. 6) in a game that will decide the SW4A conference champion; Rocky River travels to Porter Ridge, the same night.