Independence starts fast in win at Fairport

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Michael Tommer

Michael Tommer threw two first quarter touchdown passes and Braden Sears returned a fumble for a touchdown in the second quarter to lead Independence to a 35-14 win at Fairport Harding on Friday.

“We wanted to set the tone early,” said Independence coach Rick Adams. “We talked all week about how Wickliffe just beat us up last week and we didn’t play well. That left a bitter taste in our mouth and we wanted to set the tone and we did it. The defense stepped up and did a great job.”

Tommer got things started with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Zygmunt then threw a two-point conversion to give the Blue Devils an 8-0 lead. He then threw an 18-yard scoring strike to Robert Artrip and added another two-pointer to make it 16-0.

The freshman quarterback finished the game 9-of-11 passing for 107 yards.

“He’s growing,” Adams said. “He still made a couple of small mental errors but he’s getting better each week. It’s good to see the growth he’s making. When he’s out there, Robert is in the backfield with him and that helps settle him down.”

Sears opened the second quarter with his scoop and score and Artrip added a 30-yard touchdown run to give the Blue Devils a 28-0 lead at halftime.

Fairport’s Cody Paugh broke an 18-yard touchdown run and Sam Schuster and Jayden Alston connected on the two-point conversion to pull the Skippers to within 28-8 in the third quarter.

“We did not perform well in the first half,” said Fairport coach Cameron Ruff. “We have to coach better and the kids have to play better. Credit to Independence, they played tough in the first half and brought it to us.”

Independence responded with Artrip’s second touchdown run of the game, this one from 31 yards out. He finished the game with 159 yards on 18 carries and two scores.

“Our offensive line has been doing better,” Adams said. “They’re opening some holes for the guys to run and that’s been exciting to see the growth of that.”

Schuster ran for a one-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to close out the scoring. He finished the game 3-of-6 passing for 20 yards and also ran for 14 yards. Rashawn Alston led the Skippers on the ground with 171 yards on 21 carries and Paugh finished with 50 yards on nine carries and he also picked off a pass.

Independence improved to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the Chagrin Valley Conference. The Blue Devils host Berkshire on Sept. 28.

Fairport dropped to 3-2, 1-1. The Skippers travel to Cardinal on Friday.

“Our coaching staff still has a lot of confidence in this Fairport team to compete with some of these schools that have handled us easily in the past” Ruff said. “Our kids brought their A-game to Berkshire last week but we played timid against Independence tonight. We need to forget the past and move forward and play fundamental football, like we have been during the first four games, in order to compete and provide our team a chance to win. We’re capable of winning more football games if we can do that.”

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The creator and publisher of OhioVarsity.com, Hare has covered high school sports in Northeast Ohio since 1997. He began as a correspondent for the Lake County News Herald, where he contributed until 2011, primarily covering high school football and wrestling. In 1999, Hare began writing for IrishIllustrated.com, a member of the Scout.com network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. OhioVarsity.com was created in 2004 and was a member of the Rivals.com network until 2012. The site's original purpose was to cover Ohio high school football and recruiting news but since has grown to cover all sports and to provide sports information services to high school athletic programs and individual teams. 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.