Thursday, October 9, 2008
Indians fall 20-19 to Wildcats
By CLAUDE VINSON
The Independence Wildcats brought their full team and band into Indian territory last Friday to do battle with Byhalia on homecoming night.
The Wildcats, recovering from a last-minute loss to the Holly High Hawks the previous week, didn’t find the going any smoother in Byhalia. Their first play was fumbled but luckily reclaimed by their quarterback.
But they went three and out and their punt was fielded by Byhalia’s Darrell Malone, who had one tackler to beat. He lost the race and was brought down at the Wildcat 35. The Indians advanced on a pass interference call but lost ground on the next try. Their second break came on another pass interference and they were back at the previous spot. They faced a fourth and four after a 15-yard pickup. Patrick Malone, the signal caller for the Indians and quickly coming into his own, flipped a flare to Darrell Malone in the left flats for the score. They converted by kick and went up 7-0.
So far the Indian defense, led by the bruising leadership of Jeremy Harris, was doing a good job of reading the Wildcats’ plays. The visitors had to punt on a fourth and ten. But Byhalia had a receiver beat by a Wildcat defender who made the pick. The Indians held again. The quarter ended with Byhalia leading 7-0.
The leaping ability of Tavaris Neal allowed him to catch a buttonhook at the 41. The Independence defense found some of its purpose and the Indians had to punt. But the football gods were still smiling and the Wildcats violated the “fair catch” rule, giving the Indians another big break. After the penalty, a couple of perfect pitchouts from Malone to Malone put Byhalia on the 25. Patrick Malone called a fake-delay and with all the Wildcats looking left, he hit Neal with a long bomb to the right. The PAT failed but the score was 13-0 with 8:12 left before the half.
The Indian defense was still on the warpath and burning wagons. They blitzed on the second play, caused and covered a fumble at the 47. Marcus Franks caught one of Malone’s line drive passes over center and moved them to the 11. Byhalia had to attempt a field goal which fell wide right.
The Indians tightened their defense. Harris, who had been serving up intimidation to the Wildcat quarterback (London Parker), all evening, was in his plate before he picked up his fork. The sack pushed them back to their ten and the punter had to kick from his end zone.
The Indians were trying hard to score again before intermission and were deep inside Independence territory when time expired.
Halftime activities included the retirement of two Indian jerseys; number 50 worn by Terrell Richmond and number 10 worn by the record-setting Bubba Thomas. Thomas and the family of Terrell were on hand for the ceremony.
Byhalia received to start the third but couldn’t get moving. They went three and out at the 25 and then allowed Parker to break out on a keeper to the 16. He hit a receiver for the TD seconds later. Most of the third, the teams had passed the ball back and forth. The quarter ended with Byhalia still in front 13-7.
Early in the fourth, Independence player Rainey Tuggles scored on a handoff from the setback position.
The Indians had golden opportunities to put the Wildcats away but couldn’t produce. Conversely, the Wildcats scored on their next possession when Parker broke through the defensive line and picked up a four-blocker convoy to cross the goal line. They took the lead at 20-13.
A long pass to Malone with 3:37 to work with gave the Indians a first and goal at the 9. Malone kept and moved to the 6. They scored but had it called back on a holding call. Patrick Malone later scored on a fourth and one. They then prepared for a two-point conversion. The Wildcats were penalized twice, giving the Indians a shot from inches out. They failed to convert and gave the ball back to Independence with 2:01 left. The visitors ran out the clock and escaped with the 20-19 victory.
The Indians had just missed the opportunity for their first victory of the season and in District 3-3A.
Coach Markeith Washington singled out Jeremy Harris for the game’s most valuable player.
“He had a very strong defensive game. He took it to them all night,” he said.
He praised his entire team, which is improving weekly.
“We are going to continue to progress and get stronger as the season goes on,” said the first-year head coach.
Byhalia (0-6 overall, 0-3 in district) travels to face district foe Senatobia this Friday night at 7. The Warriors knocked off Holly High 7-6 last week.
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