Sunday, February 25, 2024

Trinity holds off Independence

INDEPENDENCE—Cleveland Browns fans have grown accustomed to wacky endings to football games, but they’d be hard-pressed to find a wackier finish than what happened in Trinity’s 14-13 win at Independence on Friday.

Leading 14-13 with 3:11 left in the game, the Trojans lined up to punt at their own 15-yard line. Independence’s Ethan Ciurlik crashed through the line of scrimmage and blocked the punt into the end zone where Trinity’s Alex Duncan recovered the loose ball and was tackled in the end zone for what everyone in the stadium thought was a safety and a 15-14 lead for Independence.

After conferring, the officials called the play a touchback and awarded the Trojans the ball at their own 20. Trinity then ran out the clock to seal its win.

“I’ve been coaching for a while and I can’t say I’ve ever seen one like that,” said Trinity coach Jeff McSweeney. “That was a crazy turn of events there that happened and I’ll be honest with you, the rules are what they are and I didn’t even understand it when they were explaining it to me. Okay, it worked in our favor. I told the coach over there, it was a heck of a ball game with a one-point game. It kind of stinks that it ends on something goofy like that but I don’t make the rules, I just play by them.”

Trinity’s win snapped Independence’s six-game winning streak over the Trojans.

Trinity quarterback Alex Duncan ran for a 71-yard touchdown with 6:02 remaining in the first half and he threw a two-point conversion to give the Trojans an early 8-0 lead.

The Blue Devils responded three minutes later when Dom Narduzzi threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Evan Beacher on 4th-and-5 but the extra point was blocked leaving Trinity ahead, 8-6.

Luke Pascarella then recovered a Trinity fumble at the Independence one but the Trojans forced a punt and later recovered an Independence fumble at the Blue Devil 19.

Independence took its first lead of the game when Max Tarnowski returned a Trinity fumble 55 yards for a touchdown with 3:45 remaining in the game.

After a scoreless third quarter, Independence held on four Trinity plays in the red zone.

Duncan gave the Trojans a 14-13 lead with his second touchdown of the game, this one a 10-yard run with 6:51 left to play.

“I’m proud of him,” McSweeney said of Duncan. “He had to bounce back because he turned the ball over there a couple of times and we lost it down there when we got on the one-yard line and got a little dangerous with the football. That’s part of his maturity process, he’s a sophomore and he’s learning and growing into the position.”

Independence then marched into the red zone but Damonte McKenzie picked off a pass inside the five to end that threat, but the Blue Devil defense held and forced the Trojans to punt from their own 15.

“We moved the ball but we’ve got to punch it in,” said Independence coach Rick Adams. “I’ve got to get us into the end zone. We had opportunities but we’ve got to finish series and we’re not doing that offensively. The defense stepped up and played well but on that extra point, we can’t let the point get blocked.”

While Independence’s offense struggled to finish drives, its defense played remarkably well in limiting the Trojans to just 14 points with two fumble recoveries, one interception, and a defensive touchdown.

On top of that, the Blue Devils blocked the punt but that call didn’t go in their favor.

“One play doesn’t make a game, especially when it’s 14-13,” Adams said. “We had our opportunities and the guys are playing hard.”



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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