Everything went Independence’s way in the early goings of its Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division showdown with Berkshire.
The Blue Devils built a two-score lead then fought off the Badgers the rest of the way in a 38-35 victory.
“That’s part of a young and inexperienced team,” said Independence coach Rick Adams. “We got up and then we let our guard down and let them get back into it. We got up again and the same thing, we let our guard down. Every game is a learning experience.”
Casey McGhee booted a 25-yard field goal to give the Blue Devils an early 3-0 lead. Robert Artrip then scored on a five-yard run in the second quarter and threw a two-point conversion pass to Braden Sears to push the Independence lead to 11-0.
The Badgers responded with a pair of touchdowns to take a 14-11 lead into the locker room.
Jacob Brown connected with Chris Groudle on a 17-yard scoring pass and Jacob Young hauled in a 39-yard pass from Brown. Ryan Pennypacker added a two-point conversion run.
“I give them credit,” Adams said. “They constantly fought back. We were up 11-0 and they came right back and scored back-to-back touchdowns to go ahead at halftime.”
Artrip opened the third quarter scoring with a three-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Zygmunt, who finished the game with 15 catches for 100 yards.
“We threw a lot of bubble screens and Kyle was the recipient of a lot of those and he turned them into some big plays. He was huge for us at the receiver spot.”
Independence’s lead was short-lived as the Badgers and Brown responded yet again with a one-yard touchdown run that gave the Badgers a 21-17 lead.
Artrip scored on runs of 19 and six yards to reclaim the lead for Independence, 31-21, early in the fourth quarter.
Brown, who completed 16-of-25 passes for 279 yards and four touchdowns, threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to Young to cut the Berkshire deficit to 31-28.
Artrip, who finished the game with 259 rushing yards on 35 carries and also completed 16-of-19 passes for 110 yards, broke off a 29-yard touchdown run to increase the lead to 38-28 with just over three minutes left in the game.
“It was great to be able to put up points in a game like that,” Artrip said. “It took the whole team to move down the field to give me those opportunities.”
The Badgers marched down the field and scored on a 31-yard pass from Brown to Pennypacker to close out the scoring with just seconds left on the clock.
Independence recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.
“It was such a shift this week,” Artrip said. “This is the first team we’ve played that was big on passing and we just have to work more on one-on-ones and also making sure everyone knows their responsibilities for pass drops. I think we all wanted the game to go a little differently, but in the end, we won. I think that a close game like this will help us build for the tough end of the season, to get everyone used to playing four hard quarters of football.”
Independence (4-2) hosts Cardinal on Friday while Berkshire (1-5) hosts Richmond Heights.