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Ardrey Kell survives Independence challenges for wild prep football win Friday

Ardrey Kell had the final surge in a game loaded with momentum changes, as the Knights rallied for a 43-30 nonconference victory Friday night over visiting Independence.

The Knights scored the game’s final 17 points, after Independence had scored three consecutive touchdowns and battled back from a 17-point deficit.

It gave Ardrey Kell its third victory in a row after an opening loss to Weddington, for the Knights’ best start to a season in five years.

Ardrey Kell seemed to be pulling away when it built a 26-9 lead late in the first half.

But the Patriots whittled away at the deficit and finally grabbed a 30-26 lead late in the third quarter on an 8-yard pass from Arnold Taylor to Trevor Bryan. It was Bryan’s second touchdown catch of the quarter.

With 2:05 left in the third period, Ardrey Kell went to work.

Cedric Gray, the Knights’ standout senior receiver, returned a kickoff 57 yards to the Independence 35. The Patriots’ defense forced a fourth down at the 34, but the big play of the drive — and perhaps of the game — was a fourth-down pass interference call that gave Ardrey Kell a first down at the Independence 19.

On the next play, Knights’ quarterback Jared Joseph connected with Gray for a touchdown. The conversion kick put Ardrey Kell back on top 33-30, and the Knights never trailed again.

A 49-yard pass from Joseph to Michael Hetzel with 8:51 left gave Ardrey Kell a 10-point lead, and the Knights completed their scoring with a 29-yard Jackson Price field goal in the closing minutes.

Records: Independence is 2-2; Ardrey Kell is 3-1.

Three who mattered

Cedric Gray (Ardrey Kell): Gray had six receptions for 124 yards and two touchdowns. His long kickoff return set up his second score.

Davion Nelson (Independence): The Patriots’ powerful junior running back had a big night, carrying 23 times for 209 yards and two touchdowns.

Jared Joseph (Ardrey Kell)): Joseph, the Knights’ quarterback, completed 18-of-31 passes for 280 yards and four touchdowns.

Observations

Ardrey Kell had a pair of long kickoff returns. Josh Johnson took a kick 72 yards in the second quarter, setting up the Knights’ second touchdown. And Cedric Gray ran back a kick 57 yards in the third quarter. That return led to Ardrey Kell’s go-ahead touchdown.

Independence quarterback Arnold Taylor had a strong effort. He completed 13-of-26 passes for 171 yards but had two throws picked off.

One of Taylor’s interceptions came on a strange play. He was running toward the sideline and appeared to be throwing the ball away, but Ardrey Kell’s Isaiah Maxey managed to grab the throw along the sidelines.

Ardrey Kell and Independence had played seven times previously, with Independence winning six of those, but it was the teams’ first meeting in seven years.

Ardrey Kell was trying for its first 3-1 start to the season since 2014, when the Knights finished 10-4. Independence had a 3-1 start last year, then went 2-5 the rest of the way.

What’s next?

Both teams have byes next week, then open conference play Sept. 27. Independence hosts Harrisburg Hickory Ridge in a Southwestern 4A game, while Ardrey Kell hosts South Mecklenburg in a SoMeck 7 4A contest.

Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle

Independence 6 9 15 0 -- 30

Ardrey Kell 6 20 7 10 -- 43

AK — Michael Hetzel 9 pass from Jared Joseph (kick blocked)

I — Davion Nelson 45 run (kick failed)

I — FG Ryan Howe 31

AK — Henry Bowen 7 run (kick blocked)

AK — Cedric Gray 32 pass from Joseph (Jackson Price kick)

AK — Kaci Seegars 7 run (Price kick)

I — Nelson 7 run (run failed)

I — Trevor Bryan 7 pass from Arnold Taylor (T. Bryan run)

I — T. Bryan 8 pass from Taylor (Howe kick)

AK — Gray 19 pass from Joseph (Price kick)

AK — Hetzel 49 pass from Joseph (Price kick)

AK — FG Price 29

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