Hough’s Van Smith took the second-half kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown to give the Huskies a 21-17 lead over Independence. They never looked back.
Sweet 16 No. 7 Hough (10-3) scored 28 unanswered second-half points to upset the Sweet 16 No. 1 Patriots (12-1) 42-29 in the second round of the N.C. 4AA playoffs Friday at Independence.
“I thought the kids, the players, the team showed some growing up tonight,” said Hough coach Miles Aldridge, who told his team the win was one of the best he’s had as a coach. “Independence is a very good football team. They’re not undefeated for no reason. And our kids played hard; made mistakes but they continued to play hard and that’s why you coach every day and yell and make them do it over, hoping that a moment will come. We’d like to have more.”
The Huskies will face Lake Norman in the third round.
Hough relied on running back Bishop Ford – who had 26 carries for 189 yards and two touchdowns – and special teams to beat Independence, which won the regular season meeting between the teams 27-17.
Independence hadn’t given up more than 28 points in a game all season before Friday.
“He’s carried our football team,” Aldridge said of Ford. “He’s tough, he can run, he’s a great kid and like I said last week, I’m glad he plays for us.”
Marquill Osborne had a kickoff return touchdown for Hough, going 70 yards on the first play of the second quarter.
The Huskies took advantage of two Independence mistakes in the second half, recovering fumbles on a punt and a kickoff return. Both set up Hough scores.
“We just work every day hard on everything and try to get better,” Aldridge said. “We’ve been working on our kicking game, we’ve had a little success lately in the kickoff and maybe that’s carried over a little bit.”
Independence took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter on a 33-yard Ryan Brush field goal and a 17-yard run by Quantavious McGill.
After Osborne’s kick return, quarterback Kelvin Hopkins had a 3-yard touchdown run to give Independence a 17-7 lead.
Right before the half, Hough ran an effective two-minute drill. The Huskies drove 60 yards in less than a minute and scored on a 15-yard pass from Will Coleman to Osborne to make it 17-14 at halftime.
After the kickoff return in the second half, Independence made two key mistakes in special teams that allowed the Huskies to pull away.
On a Hough punt, an Independence player touched the rolling ball and the Huskies recovered, extending the drive and leading to a 1-yard touchdown run by Smith.
Independence then fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Hough recovered, leading to a 23-yard touchdown run by Ford.
“We had a couple of letdowns on special teams,” said Independence coach Joe Evans. “They had the kickoff return for a touchdown to open the half. I mean you just can’t have that. ... The special teams, we just didn’t win all three phases like we try to every week.”
Early in the fourth quarter, Ford found a hole up the middle and ran 52 yards for a touchdown to give the Huskies a 42-17 lead.
The Independence offense struggled to find a rhythm. Hopkins was 8-of-26 for 131 yards with an interception and led the team with 106 yards and two touchdowns.
The Patriots scored two late touchdowns on a 3-yard run by McGill and a 1-yard keeper by Hopkins.
“I told them they didn’t have anything to walk off this field with their heads hanging down for,” Evans said. “They had a successful season. I told them to walk out of here with their chins up and their chests stuck out and be proud of what they accomplished this year because they accomplished a lot more than people thought they would.”