By Steve Keenan
For The Register-Herald
Buoyed by a solid second-half effort, Independence swept its way past opportunistic Midland Trail 28-21 Friday, handing new coach Chris Vicars his first win.
After spotting Midland Trail a 21-7 lead at the intermission, Independence took control of the contest in the second half, getting big gains on the sweep play to both sides of the field and wearing down its Fayette County foe by posting three unanswered scores in the final two quarters.
“We have some athletic kids, and our goal is to figure out how to get them out in space,” explained Vicars. “And we’ve got (more) kids we can rotate in and out.”
After “a lot of mistakes” in the first half — including two botched punt attempts and a long punt return score nullified by a penalty — Vicars said he told his team at halftime simply to relax, and the Patriots responded by dominating the second half offensively and pitching a shutout on the defensive side.
“They beat us to the outside,” said Midland Trail coach Joe Dean. “We had people (defenders) out there, whether they got out of position or whether Independence (beat them with its speed).
“If you can’t stop that...”
Dean called the setback “tremendously disappointing.”
Midland had a potential score wiped off the board early in the fourth period, with the hosts clinging to a 21-20 lead. Fielding a punt, Independence’s Bill Sargent apparently touched the ball, and Trail’s Austin Burdette picked it up and raced to the end zone. The officials waved off the score, though, giving Trail the ball at the Independence 11. A key sack by Cody Collins eventually forced Midland into a desperation pass into the end zone, and they ended that possession with nothing to show for it.
“They said you can’t advance a muffed ball,” Dean said of the officials.
The Raleigh County Patriots then iced the win with a 1-yard TD plunge by quarterback Brian Sexton with 2:17 remaining. On a fourth-and-goal from the 1, Sexton bobbled the snap before recovering it and crossing the goal line for the score and a 26-21 lead ahead of Colton Ward’s two-point conversion.
“We were going to run a fullback play,” said Vicars. “I think he (Sexton) got in a hurry, but he was able to recover.”
Dean said he thought Sexton’s momentum was stopped but that he’d have to look at the game film for further edification.
“Give Independence the credit,” he added.
The hosts had a final crack at regaining the lead, but Independence’s Ryan Brandstetter tackled quarterback-turned-receiver Collin Carte short of the goal line as time expired.
Midland Trail put itself in good position for a win in the first half, scoring three times — twice off Independence miscues — and taking a 21-7 lead into the locker room. The first tally — a 22-yard burst by Ryan Wilson — was set up when teammate Burdette recovered a fumble on an Independence punt attempt. Next, Wilson pounced on a blocked punt by Burdette that wound up in the end zone, making it 14-0 as the second quarter approached.
After Independence’s Ward raced to paydirt on a 35-yard run, and Robert Cuthbert’s PAT kick pulled the visitors to within 14-7, Wilson added his third six-pointer — a 6-yard run — with 1:41 to go in the half.
Ward finished with 14 carries for 112 yards and a score for the winners.
Independence visits PikeView next Friday.
Midland Trail will host rival Fayetteville the same night.
— E-mail: email@example.comWilson gained 88 yards and scored twice on 15 carries for Midland Trail.
Independence 28, Midland Trail 21
I (1-0) 0 7 13 8 — 28
MT (0-1) 14 7 0 0 — 21
MT: Ryan Wilson 22 run (Wilson kick), 7-0, 5:38
MT: Wilson recovered blocked punt in end zone (Wilson kick), 14-0, 3:12
I: Colton Ward 35 run (Robert Cuthbert kick), 14-7, 9:08
MT: Wilson 6 run (Wilson kick) 21-7, 1:41
I: Brandon Treadway 14 run (Cuthbert kick), 21-14, 9:13
I: Chance Rhodes 4 run (run failed), 21-20, 1:59
I: Brian Sexton 1 run (Ward run), 28-21, 2:47
RUSHING — I:Ward 14-112-1, Sexton 5-(minus-3)-1, Dustin Justice 14-66, Chase Mills 5-14, Treadway 9-47-1, Rhodes 7-52-1. MT: Wilson 15-88-2, Austin Burdette 7-36, Collin Carte 2-(minus-12), Glen Neal 6-11.
PASSING — I: Sexton 2-4-0-37-0. MT: Carte 2-6-0-3-0, Neal 0-1-0-0-0, Wilson 1-1-0-14-0.
RECEIVING — I: Justice 1-20, Bill Sargent 1-17. MT: Burdette 2-3, Carte 1-14.
TURNOVERS — I: None. MT: Burdette (2 fum rec, blocked punt).