Independence had to overcome three deficits to Northwest Guilford last week but took a 45-42 victory to advance to the second round of the Class 4AA playoffs.
The win sets up a rematch with rival Butler on Friday, Nov. 9, at Memorial Stadium, and a chance at redemption after the Bulldogs topped the Patriots, 33-14, on Oct. 26.
Independence coach Bill Geiler said the Vikings’ Wing-T offense gave his team problems, especially with just four days to prepare, but the Patriots defense held strong and Christopher Krantz’ late field goal proved to be the difference.
“This team just never gives up, and we don’t quit,” Geiler said. “I tell them that it doesn’t matter what the scoreboard says, they have to keep working. They have bought in to what we are trying to do here, and you can see it.
“We already have some sophomores playing defense, but we used some freshmen (last week). We have a sophomore quarterback (Kelvin Hopkins), so we are young, but they have bought in.”
Sophomores Deion Washington (12 tackles), Tony Worthy (11 tackles and a fumble recovery) and Adonis Alexander (10 tackles) had standout performances against Northwest Guilford.
Geiler said Hopkins, who completed 12 of his 25 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns, played a good game, although a late fumble put the Patriots in a precarious position and allowed Northwest Guilford a late touchdown that made the score closer.
“(Hopkins) played great,” Geiler said. “A couple of times he threw into double coverage and (he had) the fumble, but those are young mistakes. He played really well.”
Hopkins will make his second career start against Butler as Jason Connella, who spent most of the season as the Patriots’ signal-caller, is hampered by a sore shoulder.
Hopkins threw two touchdowns to Workpeh Kofa and one to Dequan Barnes. Junior Isaiah Robinson had 25 carries for 151 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, and he’ll be vital in the Patriots’ rematch with Butler.
“We know what (the Bulldogs) are going to do, and they know what we are doing,” Geiler said. “There are no secrets. It comes down to us protecting the football and executing our plays.”
The Patriots forced Butler into three empty possessions to open the Oct. 26 game and came back from a 20-0 halftime deficit to cut the lead to 26-14 before a late Bulldogs score, something that is encouraging to Geiler.
“We stopped them to start the game, but we can’t come away with empty offensive possessions,” Geiler said. “We have to capitalize against a good team like Butler. We had some chances to take the lead early, and we fought hard. Those are the positives.”
• Defensive back Tim Marshall will return for the Butler game after the sophomore was suspended for a helmet-to-helmet hit in the Myers Park game.