Thursday, September 28, 2006
Indians drop division battle to Wildcats; defense tough in 15-0 loss
By CLAUDE VINSON
The Byhalia Indians provided the competition for the Independence Wildcats last Friday evening in the latter’s homecoming game. This was a district tilt between two teams with identical 1-3 overall records. Both were trying to regroup after losses the week before.
The Wildcats won the toss and elected to receive. They returned the ball to the Indian 48-yard line. Otis Mays was leading the Wildcats’ offense. He had some early help from the Byhalia defense which was tagged with a face mask call that put the ball on the 14.
This was followed by an illegal substitution and the ball was placed on the 3 for a first and goal. Another penalty advanced it half the distance to the goal.
The Byhalia defense held on a third and one. Independence elected to go on a fourth and goal and was hit with illegal motion call. They still tried and Mays was picked by Chris Hines.
The Indians had the ball, but Marcus Thomas was forced to begin operations close to his end zone. They gained about six yards on two carries and had to punt on fourth down.
The punt was a good one but the Indians were penalized and had to punt again five yards back. This one gave the Wildcats ideal field position and Mays went to the air. Byhalia beat the Wildcat receiver to the ball, but once again the Indians were too close to their own goal line. The Wildcats blitzed and Thomas was trapped in the end zone for a Wildcat safety.
D.J. Newsom took the free kick from the Indians and went all the way for the touchdown. The ’Cats tried to make a two-point conversion but failed.
The rest of the first half was a test of defensive wills. The Indian defense, which had made big plays consistently throughout the first two quarters, ended with a sack of Mays deep in his backyard.
Byhalia was not able to put up any points and intermission came with the Wildcats still in control at 8-0.
Independence crowned its homecoming queen, and Thomas and the Indians went back to work over the ball to open the second half. Thomas found Zacarian Rayford for a first down and a 23-yard pickup. Thomas’ aim was improving but his receivers were still dropping balls. They turned it over on downs.
The Byhalia defense was still giving the Wildcats’ running backs all they could handle, but somehow Tashun Jones broke through for a long gain. He was dumped on the next play for a huge loss. They went three and out.
The Independence kick was a long one, and it was downed too close to home. Newsom and Eric Smith pushed Thomas into the end zone and covered the loose ball for a touchdown. This time the Wildcats kicked the extra point. Independence had its 15-0 winning margin on the board.
The Indian defense kept creating opportunities for the offense during the remainder of the game, but to no avail. Byhalia took to the airways but had little success. The clock ran out and the Indians went to 1-4.
Head coach Devin Rutherford lauded his defense.
“We had some offensive breakdowns and we are going to work on them,” he said. “We plan to keep improving until they are on the same page as our defense.”
Rutherford named his senior linebacker, Kelvin Chew, as the week’s most valuable player.
Next up for the Indians is a non-district contest at Pontotoc. The Warriors are 1-4 after a 55-7 loss last Friday to Shannon.
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