Independence rides defense to win at Lutheran West

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Independence struggled to get its offense going but the Blue Devils made big plays on defense to pull out a 16-6 win at Lutheran West on Friday.

With the win, the Blue Devils improved to 4-0 for the first time since 2012.

“The defense saved us tonight,” Independence coach Rick Adams said. “The defense did a great job getting a safety and a pick-six. We had them pinned down in their territory for much of the second quarter. We just couldn’t get our offense going.”

Neither team had much luck offensively early on as the first quarter ended in a scoreless tie.

Independence’s defense then tackled the Longhorns in the end zone for a safety with 10:13 left in the first half.

Five minutes later, Michael Tommer threw a screen pass to Eric Mitrisin, who finished off the 31-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown and a 9-0 lead with 5:13 remaining in the half.

“Eric Mitrisin came up huge for us,” Adams said. “He had five catches for 142 yards and that touchdown. He was really big offensively and defensively, he made some tackles for us on the perimeter.”

Rory Corrigan, who stepped up in the second half of Independence’s win over Orange last week, delivered another big third-quarter play when he snagged a deflected ball at the line of scrimmage and returned it for a defensive touchdown.

“Nathan Coudriet tipped the ball right into Rory’s hands,” Adams said. “That was after the opening kickoff in the second half. We had a really good kickoff and our coverage did a really good job holding them back there, which led to that. Coudriet tipped it and Rory got it.”

The defensive touchdown was the reward for the Blue Devils not letting a struggling offense carry over to the other side of the football.

“It’s huge because a lot of our guys are playing both ways,” Adams said. “They have to play both sides, so after an offensive series, they have to come right back and go defense. On defense, we held them to 50 yards rushing and 15 yards passing, so the defense did a great job all night. It was big.”

Eddie Lewis led Lutheran West’s offense with 110 yards on 19 carries and he scored a late touchdown.

The rest of the Longhorn offense accounted for just -4 yards.

Lewis also recorded 13 tackles, a pair of sacks and picked off a pass in the end zone to stop an Independence scoring opportunity.

Michael Reddick finished the night with seven tackles for Lutheran West, who dropped to 1-3 on the year. The Longhorns host Brooklyn next week.

Independence returns home on Friday for a battle of unbeaten teams as 4-0 Wickliffe is next up on the schedule.

Back in 2012, when Independence started the season 4-0, the Blue Devils dropped five of their next six games to finish 5-5. A lot of that had to do with the schedule they played as the opponents in their five losses finished the year a combined 47-12.

Now, the Blue Devils have an opportunity to push their record to 5-0 for the first time since 2009 when the team started 9-0.

“It’s right there for us,” Adams said. “It’s 4-0 vs. 4-0. We’ve got to come out and fix a few things offensively. It’s a play here, a play there. Defensively, we just have to keep doing what we’re doing. We’ve only given up three touchdowns all year, so they just have to keep that up. Wickliffe is going to be tough and we know that but they have to come here and we’re going to be ready.”

Wickliffe and Independence have met just two times in modern history with Wickliffe winning in 2018, 40-6.