Blue Devils fall short in rivalry game

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Independence Football

INDEPENDENCE—Friday’s regular-season finale between host Independence and visiting Cuyahoga Heights had a lot more riding on it than rivalry bragging rights. The Blue Devils needed a win to clinch a playoff spot while the Redskins hoped to generate some momentum heading into the postseason following last week’s loss to Kirtland.

Dylan Drummond scored touchdowns on four of his eight receptions to lead the Redskins to a 28-21 victory.

“It’s a frustrating way to lose because the way we played didn’t necessarily show up on the scoreboard,” said Independence head coach Rick Adams. “It’s hard to win when you turn over the ball four times like we did tonight, but we left it all out on the field.”

With the loss, the Blue Devils needed some help to earn a spot in the Region 21 playoffs. That help didn’t come and, according to JoeEitel.com, Independence was mathematically eliminated from the postseason.

Drummond, an Eastern Michigan commitment, recorded 134 yards receiving and scored all four of his touchdowns in the first half.

His first touchdown catch was a 16-yarder from Ryan Polk with 8:21 left in the opening quarter.

Independence responded with a 1-yard scoring plunge on 4th-and-goal from Robert Artrip that tied the game at 7-7 with 2:24 left in the first.

Drummond then caught a 30-yard touchdown pass to put the Redskins up 14-7. Cuyahoga Heights then blocked an Independence punt and took possession inside the Blue Devils’ 5.

The Independence defense mounted a goal-line stand and took over possession, but an interception set up Cuyahoga Heights’ next score, a 22-yard pass from Polk to Drummond that gave the Redskins a 21-7 lead.

Nick Mroczynski returned the ensuing kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown that cut Independence’s deficit to 21-14, but again Polk and Drummond connected on a touchdown pass to push the lead back to two scores.

Polk completed 13-of-21 passes for 211 yards and the four scores and Lucas D’Orazio rushed for 164 yards on 29 carries, many of them coming on Cuyahoga Heights’ final two drives of the game.

Mroczynski ran for a 2-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter but the Redskins held on for the win.

“I’m just trying to put my heart out for these guys, they’re my family,” Mroczynski said.

While Independence came up short in its goal to reach Week 11, the Blue Devils have plenty to be proud of this season.

“It was impressive,” Adams said of the 2017 season. “The way this group of guys came together and played the game was impressive. I’m proud of this group.”

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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.