By Cliff Mehrtens
CORNELIUS – Was Hough High’s pulsating 28-27 victory against Independence the biggest in the program’s four seasons?
“Yes,” said center Jacob McCreary. “So far.”
Huskies coach Bobby Collins agreed.
“This is a feather in our hat, because we hadn’t beaten them yet,” he said.
Hough had plenty to celebrate, but seem determined not to make this game the season’s zenith. The Huskies (4-0) are envisioning playing for a conference title, making a deep playoff run and ultimately, a championship. It’s not a pipe dream, not when you rally to beat one of Charlotte’s marquee programs (Independence won seven state titles from 2000-06).
Hough, trailing 27-21, marched 77 yards for the winning score last in the fourth quarter. There was absolutely nothing fancy about it, nor much Independence could do to stop it.
The Huskies simply run straight up the middle, most often with tailback Tylan Murrell churning his legs and refusing to be tackled by the initial hit. His escorts opened holes consistently through the game – left guard Connor Brooks, right guard Christian Walker, left tackle Tyler Blankenship, right tackle Avery Brumlow and center McCreary.
Hough converted three third-down plays during the pivotal drive. Josh Stilley connected on a 21-yard pass to Carl Tucker. Fullback Will McIntyre burst up the middle for a 20-yard gain. And Murrell carried seven times on the drive for 35 yards. His eight-yard touchdown run with 5:29 left tied the game at 27.
Hough’s Tim Gawert calmly kicked his fourth extra-point of the game to make it 28-27.
Independence (2-2) erased Hough’s 21-14 halftime lead with two third-quarter touchdowns. But the Patriots’ extra-point kick sailed wide right after their fourth score, which gave Independence a 27-21 lead.
Murrell finished with 180 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries.
And Collins quick message to his team before the winning drive?
“I told my guys it’s Friday night football,” he said. "This is what you look for. Now you’re in a dog fight. ... We didn’t want to disappoint.”