Scoring was hard to come by in Independence last Friday evening.
For most of the night, neither team had success at finding the end zone, aside from the final three minutes of the first half and the final two minutes of the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for the home crowd, it was the visiting team that had the most success on the scoreboard, as the Wildcats fell 12-6 to Rosa Fort.
“We have to get better in the red zone,” Independence coach Kris Clanton said, following the loss. “We finish two of those drives and we’re up on the scoreboard instead of behind. We’ve had several injuries so we’re relying on just a few people to get us there, and they get tired. (But) we have to have the mentality of finishing, no matter how tired we get.”
Independence took the first shot to open the contest, but the Wildcats were stopped at the 35-yard line on fourth down, with Rosa Fort picking off the attempted pass in the end zone. After IHS forced a Lions’ punt, the Wildcats fumbled the ball, returning the possession to Rosa Fort as the first quarter came to a close.
With Rosa Fort staring down the end zone on the Wildcats’ five-yard line, the Lions opened the second quarter with a fumble, recovered by junior Bryson Davis of IHS. That turnover would set up another chance for the Wildcats, but penalties and negative yards would eventually result in a punt to Rosa Fort with 5:44 remaining in the first half.
That’s when the Lions’ offense started to click, as junior Marcus Calhoun broke free on a 35-yard sprint into Wildcats’ territory. The play would pave the way for a short, six-yard touchdown from Frednardo Stokes with 2:46 left on the clock. The Lions would attempt the two-point conversion, but were unsuccessful, thanks to a stop from Keion Mays.
Things got worse for Independence on the ensuing kickoff, as the Wildcats fumbled the return near midfield, resulting in a 30-yard recovery from Melvin Jackson, Jr. Two plays later, Calhoun found the end zone from two yards out, lifting Rosa Fort to a 12-0 lead at halftime.
Rosa Fort continued to push downfield to open the second half, as the Lions roared to the Independence 10-yard line. The Wildcats’ defense once again came up with a huge break a few plays later though, as the Lions were stopped on an incomplete pass on fourth and short.
From there, a spark returned to the Independence offense as the Wildcats marched the ball deep into Lions’ territory. Mays found the end zone on a 14-yard scamper, but a holding penalty negated the touchdown, leaving the Wildcats to try and score on fourth and short from the five-yard line.
Despite a hard run from Mays, Independence came up just inches short of the first down, denying the Wildcats points on the scoreboard. Rosa Fort would then take over as the fourth quarter began, but were quickly forced to punt.
Once again, Independence tried to get into the end zone after marching the ball inside the Rosa Fort 10-yard line. However, on fourth and goal, the Wildcats’ seven-yard pass was intercepted by Calhoun, once again leaving IHS empty-handed with 5:38 left on the clock.
Rosa Fort burned the clock for several minutes, but the Wildcats were given another chance, as the Lions fumbled away a first down into the waiting hands of Jay Jones, who took it back 18 yards for the first IHS touchdown of the evening. The Wildcats opted for a fake extra point attempt, but were unsuccessful, keeping the score at 12-6 with 1:59 left to go.
Needing an onside kick recovery to keep the game alive, the Wildcats were unable to recover, as Rosa Fort took over one final time to burn the clock.
With the loss, Independence dropped to 2-5 overall and 1-1 in Region 2-3A. The Wildcats will now set their sights on North Panola this Friday night, a matchup that will take place in Sardis.
“We need to get healthy,” Clanton said, on what his team needs to do before the matchup at North Panola. “That’s a tough team and we need to have everyone we can get to take those reps. Our running game has been our strength, but we have to also find a way to incorporate our passing game.”
Kickoff between the Wildcats and Cougars is scheduled for 7 p.m.