By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Westside coach Larry Cook was looking for something — anything — to get his Renegades on the rebound following three straight losses.
Independence coach Chris Vicars was looking for much of the same — and hoping to pick up his first career win at home.
Both teams came into Friday’s battle at Covey Field in Coal City with 1-3 records, hungry to right the ship.
In the end, it was the Renegades who looked more like the road warriors, knocking off Independence 50-20 to improve to 2-3 on the season.
“Yes, sir. We really needed this win bad,” Cook said. “The whole team has been down in the dumps, kind of feeling pitiful for ourselves the last three weeks. We needed some positive things to make us keep working harder in practice and do things right.”
Once again, the Renegades got a strong performance from their junior stud, running back Mike Mullens.
Mullens entered the game as Class AA’s leading rusher with 710 yards. At the end of the night, he added 317 to his total to roll over 1,000 yards on the season after only five games.
“It feels pretty good, but I can’t let it get to me,” he said. “I can’t get the big head. There’s going to be teams out there that are coming to stop me, but if we can get this passing game down like we did tonight, that will take a lot of the pressure off. They’ll have to stay true to our passing game and open up the run a lot more.”
Friday saw a coming-of-age performance from sophomore quarterback Larry Cook Jr., who stepped into the position before Week 1, when returning quarterback Justin Cogar went down with an injury.
Cook went 2-for-4 for 48 yards, throwing two touchdowns to senior receiver Corey Bowles.
“It’s been nerve racking; I kind of just relied on everybody keeping me up when I would mess up and just kept on truckin’,” said Cook. “All the seniors and line and even Mike (Mullens) helped me out with reads, and they just kept me with a good morale and keep me standing up most of the time.”
Cook wasn’t the only one to throw a touchdown for Westside. Justin Kenneda completed a halfback pass to Breyer Morgan in the first quarter.
It was enough to catch Independence off guard.
“This was a tough game,” Vicars said. “It’s one of those times where what we saw tonight, we didn’t see on film at all. That’s not an excuse, because it’s our job as coaches to be prepared for everything. They were pretty good at what they did.”
Perhaps it was a change in the playbook that Cook and the Renegades needed.
“My play calling has been horrendous the last three weeks,” he said. “I just wasn’t trusting (Larry Cook Jr.) enough and trying to trust my running back and my offensive line more. We came out and mixed it up real well. I thought that it helped everybody to get more involved and have confidence that we were going to do what we needed to do to get things done.”
For Independence, it’s another trip to the drawing board.
“I thought we did some things well tonight; we moved the ball well, but we just missed a lot of tackles and had some tough turnovers,” Vicars said. “We let them get behind our secondary a lot, and that’s not good because I’m the secondary coach.”
The Patriots did manage to move the ball well through the air. Senior quarterback Brian Sexton went 10-for-15 for 91 yards. Running back Colton Ward picked up two touchdowns on the ground.
“We’ve got some things to work on, and hopefully we’ll pick up a win next week,” Vicars said.
Independence (1-4) will host Sherman (2-3) for homecoming on Friday, while Westside will travel to Scott.
— E-mail: jrollins
@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter at @JDanielRollins.
W: 12 16 8 14 — 50
I: 13 0 0 7 — 20
I — Colton Ward 7 run (Ward run fail), 8:32.
W — Breyer Morgan 22 pass from Justin Kenneda (run fail), 6:41.
I — Ward 13 run (Brandon Treadway kick), 2:17
W — Mike Mullens 71 yard run (run fail), 1:23
W — Mullens 56 yard run (Bowles pass), 7:51
W — Corey Bowles 19 yard pass from Larry Cook (Mullens run), 7:09
W — Bowles 4 yard pass from Cook (Bowles pass), 8:56
I — Dustin Justice 4 yard run (Treadway kick), 9:22
W — Mullens 10 yard run (Cook run), 6:41
W — Mullens 80 yard run (pass fail), 4:26
RUSHING — W: Justin Kenneda 2-(-11), Larry Cook 4-33, Mike Mullens 25-317. I: Colton Ward 7-29, Ryan Brandstetter 1-2, Dustin Justice 16-42, Brandon Treadway 6-10, Chance Rhodes 7-24, Chris Mills 3-18.
PASSING — W: Larry Cook 4-8-0-56, Justin Kenneda 1-2-0-27, Mike Mullens 1-2-0-37. I: Brian Sexton 10-15-1-91.
RECEIVING — W: Justin Kenneda 1-37, Corey Bowles 3-29, Bryce Robinson 1-27, Breyer Morgan 1-27. I: Ritchie Miller 1-3, Colton Ward 1-10, Bill Sargent 1-6, Brandon Treadway 3-30, Austin Parrish 2-20, Cody Collins 2-34.
TAKEAWAYS— W: Justin Kenneda (fumble recovery), Corey Bowles (INT). I: Jeremy Kiblinger (fumble recovery).