By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Prior to Friday’s game with Shady Spring, Independence held a ceremony honoring those who took part in the renovations of George D. Covey Field.
After the game, it was the Tigers who were on the field celebrating.
Shady Spring (1-3) picked up its first win of the season with a 14-7 victory over its longtime Raleigh County rival Patriots (1-3).
“For young guys like this, this is a huge win,” Shady coach Vince Culicerto said. “For a young bunch to come out ahead and get a taste of winning is huge. Our boys fought hard.”
Independence threatened on its first drive, going 49 yards on 12 plays, driving all the way to the Shady Spring 15-yard line, before turning the ball over on downs. It was a series that caught the veteran Shady coach off guard.
“I was just thinking ‘wow,’ they were doing a good job of mixing up plays on us,” Culicerto said. “They ran the ball well and threw the ball. Give coach (Chris) Vicars credit; he came out with a good game plan. Our boys had to buck up and stop them there. Then we had to go out and move the ball.”
On the next series, Shady moved the ball well with Culicerto connecting with receiver Steven Chhabra on a 22-yard pass to the 1. Culicerto then punched it in on the next play to give the Tigers the first score of the game and its first lead of the season.
It was a back and forth battle for the next two quarters, before Shady finally found pay dirt again early in the fourth.
Shady ran six straight run plays, rotating between halfback Tyler Hanson and fullback Elliot Halstead, before Culicerto rolled right on a bootleg from six yards out to pick up his second touchdown of the game.
It was a play that the elder Culicerto had been hoping to implement after seeing it several times in their previous three games.
“We had been working on it,” Culicerto admitted. “Timmy had been rushing it, and I’ll tell ya, we’ve been bootlegged a lot the last few weeks. We felt like we had good speed to get there, but it’s a tough play to cover on the goal line.”
The nephew definitely felt the uncle had a hand in that play.
“That was by design,” Timmy said. “That was all the coach’s decision. He called that one.”
It was Timmy’s first taste of the Independence-Shady Spring rivalry. Culicerto transferred to the Tigers from Woodrow Wilson in the summer.
“It feels good to get the win. I couldn’t have done it without my team. The line did what they had to do,” Timmy said. “It’s a rivalry! It felt good to get the win. We just had to do it for Shady.”
The loss will send Independence back to the drawing board. The Patriots will look to pick up their second win of the season — and a first on the Battleground — next week against Westside.
“Our kids played hard. They played really hard,” Vicars said. “They worked their tails off. We tried to get them to buy into this week. I thought we did a good job of that.”
The Patriots’ offense improved over last week’s dreadful performance against Greenbrier West, picking up 183 yards — 114 yards more than they managed against the Cavaliers.
“I think we’re really improving. I’d like to see us get some more passes into the offense,” said Vicars, who took over the Patriots coaching job just a week before the start of practice. “We need to really work on tackling. There were quite a few times we had some tackles that we missed on their quarterback that would have helped with field position, but I hurt with these kids tonight.”
The loss is the sixth in a row for the Patriots to Shady, something Vicars hopes to right next season.
“This game is a rivalry, that’s for sure,” Vicars said. “Both teams play hard. They both go after each other. It’s the biggest game on our schedule and one of theirs, as well. We look forward to it next year.”
Shady Spring will travel to PikeView next week while the Patriots will welcome Westside into the confines of Covey Field.
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S (1-3) 0 7 0 7 — 14
I (1-3) 0 0 0 7 — 7
SS: Timmy Culicerto 1 run (Levi Messer kick), 6:33
SS: Culicerto 6 run (Messer kick), 10:16
I: Colton Ward 1 run (Brandon Treadway kick), 5:42
RUSHING— SS: Jonathon Hardy 4-15, Timmy Culicerto 7-27, Tyler Hanson 12-76, Elliot Halstead 7-23 I: Colton Ward 12-41, Brian Sexton 4-(-7), Dustin Justice 13-67, Bill Sargent 2-0, Brandon Treadway 3-5, Chance Rhodes 2-13.
PASSING — SS: Timmy Culicerto 6-10-0-97. I: Brian Sexton 5-10-0-65
RECEIVING — SS: Steven Chhabra 2-28, Jordan Meadows 2-68, Tyler Hanson 1-2. I.: Dustin Justice 2-23, Bill Sargent 1-8, Brandon Treadway 1-20, Chance Rhodes 1-4.