Independence’s balanced attack helped the Blue Devils build a 20-0 halftime lead over visiting Richmond Heights on Friday. Clutch plays in the second half allowed the Blue Devils to hold off the Spartans in a 41-22 Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division showdown at Alumni Field.
“I think we were finally able to have a pretty good balanced attack,” said Independence coach Rick Adams. “We had 176 yards rushing and 180 yards passing, so it was really balanced.”
Stephan Molchan opened the scoring when he hauled in a 22-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Stefanski. Evan Collins booted the extra point.
Molchan scored again on a 1-yard run in the second quarter to make it 14-0. Ian Smith caught a 25-yard pass from Stefanski to increase Independence’s lead to 20-0 at the break.
Stefanski finished the game 8 of 14 passing for 180 yards and two touchdown passes.
“Richmond Heights blitzed their middle linebackers a lot and left the middle open,” Stefanski said. “Our line did great picking that up and my receivers did a great job finding the open area.”
The Spartans scored on an 8-yard touchdown run and added a two-point conversion to cut the Blue Devil lead to 20-8 in the third.
Nick Mroczynski scored on a 1-yard run early in the fourth quarter to push it back to 27-8 but the Spartans responded with a 9-yard run and two-point conversion to make it 27-16.
Jack Giganti, who led the Blue Devils with 102 rushing yards on seven carries, made it 34-16 with a 3-yard touchdown run.
“The line opened up a couple nice holes and he got through them,” Adams said. “On a couple runs he literally just lowered his shoulder and got north and south and ran a couple of kids over.”
Smith later returned an interception 42 yards for a score to give the Blue Devils a big lead heading down the stretch.
The Blue Devils put the game away despite losing starting center Jacob Riley to an injury early in the third quarter.
“In the fourth quarter we did a really good job running the ball in the fourth quarter, which was really a big thing because we lost our center Jacob Riley in the first series of the third quarter with an ankle injury,” Adams said. “We had to have our backup center come in, but we were able to still run the ball. That was huge.”
Mroczynski was Stefanski’s go-to receiver late in the game.
“He had 29 yards but all of his catches were on huge third down plays in the fourth quarter when we were only up by two touchdowns,” Adams said. “He had two spectacular catches out of the backfield that kept drives alive. Stat-wise it wasn’t huge but in the situations they were really big plays.”
The Blue Devils improved to 3-5 and will travel to Berkshire on Friday. The Badgers are 4-4 after defeating previously undefeated Cuyahoga Heights, 41-40, in double overtime.