The offensive numbers weren’t as big as they usually are, but it didn’t matter for the Independence Patriots Friday night at home.
Big plays, a defensive touchdown and a special-teams score helped Independence, ranked No.1 in the Observer’s Sweet 16, to a 50-14 victory over the Myers Park Mustangs.
Patriots quarterback Kelvin Hopkins ran for a pair of touchdowns (1 and 64 yards) and also threw for a score. Hopkins finished with 88 yards rushing on 10 carries while throwing for 110 yards, going 8 of 11.
Independence (9-0, 4-0) also got a 20-yard touchdown on a fumble recovery by Jimmel Twine and a 50-yard punt return for a touchdown.
With six minutes left in the first half, Myers Park only trailed the Patriots 7-0. They had the ball at the Independence 40 with a first and 10. But everything quickly unraveled for the Mustangs as Independence scored three touchdowns in a 2:31 span.
Myers Park went for it on fourth down and failed to pick up the first down as the drive stalled at the Independence 36. On the Patriots next play, Hopkins rumbled for a 64-yard touchdown, and Jamar Jenkins ran in the 2-point conversion for a 15-0 Independence advantage.
Less than a minute later, a Mustangs fumbled snap was scooped up by Jimmel Twine who returned it 20 yards for a touchdown. After Myers Park went three-and-out, Deion Washington fielded the Mustangs punt and raced to the end zone for a score and poof… Independence went ahead 29-0 and never looked back.
“We saw some things and guys made plays,” said Independence coach Joe Evans, commenting on the big shift in momentum. “Kelvin had a great run where he took off and ran away from some people, and the momentum kind of shifted to us, and when it shifted we took it and ran with it.”
Part of the momentum swing in the Patriots three-score flurry was Twine’s fumble recovery for a touchdown. “The snap went over the quarterback’s head; I saw it, one of my backers hit the quarterback and I scooped it up, and my team let me score,” he said. Twine also had a huge block on Washington’s punt return for a score.
Myers Park quarterback Clay Norris went 14-of-38 for 129 yards and threw for two touchdowns. Norris was the unfortunate benefactor of numerous dropped balls from his receivers, especially in the first half. The Mustangs (3-6, 1-3) got late fourth-quarter touchdown passes from Tadarin McNeil for 10 yards and Ian Marr for 27. But by that time the game had long been decided.