MIDDLEFIELD—Both Independence and Cardinal had their shining moments in Friday’s Chagrin Valley Conference opener at Richard A. Moss Field but it was the Blue Devils who made the big plays when they needed them in a 22-6 win.
With the win, Independence improved to 1-3 overall and 1-0 in the CVC while Cardinal dropped to 2-2, 0-1.
“It feels unbelievable,” said Independence first-year coach Rick Adams on his first win at the school. “After watching them on film I knew we had our work cut out for us. We made some adjustments this week and we had some adversity this week. The kids battled. This was a team win. Defense, special teams, offensive big plays; it was unbelievable.”
The biggest adjustment came at quarterback where sophomore Kyle Stefanski replaced junior Ben Artrip at quarterback.
Stefanski went on to lead the Blue Devils in rushing with 95 yards and he completed 7 of 16 passes for 125 yards. His 86-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter broke a scoreless tie and he opened the third quarter with a 78-yard scoring strike to Artrip to make it 14-0.
Both scoring plays came after Independence's defense stopped Cardinal on fourth down inside the 20.
“We told (Stefanski) earlier when we ran the play, he just read it wrong,” Adams said of Stefanski’s long run. “We told him next time if they go with the Jet, pull it and keep it. Ben’s shoulder has been bothering him the last couple weeks and we finally said you can help us somewhere else and he did. He scored a big touchdown for us in the third quarter. That really gave us some breathing room.
“Ben is a competitor on defense and offense. Kyle stepped up and made a great play. Everybody did. Stephen Molchan and at the end, Kevin Clymer. We took a ton of time off the clock because Kevin was running hard giving us runs. The O-line. We had a lot of adversity on the line and they stepped up and played tonight.”
Stefanski added a 4-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter to close out the scoring.
Cardinal had its chances.
The Huskies, who out gained the Blue Devils, 348-316, drove the ball up and down the field to dominate time of possession, 31:31 – 16:29 but stalled in four of five trips into the red zone.
“The fact that we stalled in the red zone four times, champions finish and we didn’t finish,” said Cardinal coach Eric Cardinal. “We had three, I don’t know how long, 60-70 yard drives, and cashed in on nothing. We let a hungry, young, talented team that was 0-fer hang around and hang around and make a big play and believe in themselves and our young team after driving up and down the field, we didn’t literally hang our head but we started to have doubts and the game got away from us. We didn’t finish. We didn’t finish what we set out to do.”
Nate Peters did most of the work for the Huskies. He carried 30 times for 223 yards and scored on a 1-yard run midway through the third quarter to pull the Huskies to within 14-6.
The injury to kicker Donavon Drebus forced Cardinal to attempt a two-point conversion, which was snuffed out by the Blue Devils.
“I think we played well. I think the stats will show we played OK. But you don’t win games on first downs and yardage and good runs. You win on points and obviously we didn’t have enough points,” Cardinal said. “They’re a good, young team and they’ll get better as time goes on. We’re a good, young team and we’ll get better but tonight was not our night.”
Molchan finished the game with five carries for 41 yards and Artrip had two catches for 84 yards for the Blue Devils. Cardinal’s Jimmy Wilcox carried the ball 14 times for 56 yards and Jake Francis caught four passes for 21 yards.
Cardinal hosts Cuyahoga Heights on Friday while Independence travels to Fairport Harding.