Thursday, December 7, 2023

Blue Devils make statement in 42-21 win over Hawken

GATES MILLS—To make the playoffs, Independence must win out and get some help from other teams in Region 15.

Steve Schmetzer led the Blue Devils' rushing attack

On Friday, the Blue Devils helped their cause with a 42-21 win over Hawken at Walton Field.

“We were looking at making a statement,” said Independence head coach Jim Wotowiec. “We really played well as a team.”

That statement came in the form of a dominating second half pulled away from the Hawks.

Quarterback Thomas Hockenberry ran for a score and threw two touchdown passes to Austin Buc to give the Blue Devils a 22-13 halftime lead. Behind Hockenberry’s clutch passing and Steve Schmetzer’s power running, the Blue Devils dominated the second half.

Hawken’s offense ran just three plays in the third quarter and two of them resulted in lost fumbles.

Meanwhile, Hockenberry threw another TD pass to Buc and ran two yards for another score. Schmetzer closed out the scoring with a 22-yard touchdown run with 2:46 remaining in the game.

“We were able to run the football and Hockenberry had a great night throwing the football,” Wotowiec said. “I’m real proud of the kids. The seniors stepped up and we put ourselves in a situation where it’s one game at a time. That’s where we’re at.”

Hawken had just four possessions in the second half. Two ended with the lost fumbles and the Hawks came up short on fourth down on another. Cam Mazzone ran for a 69-yard touchdown with 7:13 remaining in the game to provide the only bright spot for the Hawks in the second half.

Schmetzer continued to move the chains in the fourth quarter, allowing the Blue Devils to keep Hawken’s offense on the sideline.

“Schmetzer tonight, when he gets going, and we get him the first block he can make people miss,” Wotowiec said. “He did that tonight. He just ran hard.”

With the win, Independence improved to 4-3 overall. The Blue Devils travel to Cadiz next week to play the 4-3 Harrison Central Huskies.

Wotowiec doesn’t know much about the Huskies, but he knows his Blue Devils are in a must-win situation to extend their season to Week 11.

“As we told the kids, it’s a roller coaster ride,” he said. “We’re in the abyss. At 3-3 we were in the abyss. We had to win this one and next week we have to go on a road trip. It’s like a family vacation. We have no idea where we’re going. We have to get past that one and then play our rival.”


Steve Hare
Steve Hare
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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