Special teams TD leads Independence past Cardinal

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Independence 42, Cardinal 7

MIDDLEFIELD—Independence used a pair of big plays to swing the momentum its way in a 42-7 Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division win at Cardinal on Friday.

Kyle Stefanski’s 39-yard touchdown run gave the Blue Devils a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter and Kevin Mooney’s 10-yard special teams touchdown on the first play of the second quarter helped Independence pull away from the Huskies.

“I was nervous coming in here,” said Independence coach Rick Adams. “I told the guys all week, two years ago we came in here and we were 0-3 and had like 20 kids on the roster and we ended up coming out with the victory. The roles were kind of reversed here, so I told the kids we had to focus and I thought they did.”

Following Stefanski’s run, Independence forced Cardinal to punt from its own 15-yard line. Nick Mroczynski, who ran for two second half touchdowns, broke through the line and blocked the punt. Mooney caught the rebound and scooted in for the score.

“Coach (Dan) Molls does our punt return and wanted to run (the block),” Adams said. “I gave him the green light and he called it. The kids executed it perfectly. You can’t draw it up any better. They did a great job on that.”

The Huskies responded with their longest drive of the night but failed to cut into the Independence lead when they came up short on a 4th-and-2 at the Blue Devils 11.

“I thought that was actually the point of the game where the game went south,” said Cardinal coach Eric Cardinal. “That’s where I felt it was a turning point in the game. Had we pushed it in there, we’re sitting at 14-7, even with the punt block. Had we been able to convert there it could have been a different scenario.”

Independence then used some trickery to tack on another score.

With time running down in the first half, Stefanski threw a short pass to Trevor Thompson, who then lateraled the ball to Owen Ramm for a 22-yard touchdown with 22 seconds left in the half.

“Owen Ramm did an awesome job defensively for us and made some key catches for us early in the game,” Adams said. “He had a great return and he’s been a solid force for us all year.”

Mroczynski scored on runs of 24 and 13 yards to close out the scoring for Independence and Robby Muhl scored on a 4-yard run for the Huskies.

“The second half was really our line coach telling us we’ve got to run the counter because they’re overplaying it,” Adams said. “When you have coaches that see that stuff it really makes it a lot easier.”

The Huskies had some success on offense but couldn’t finish off drives.

“We had some breakdowns and I thought we shot ourselves in the foot on offense a lot,” Cardinal said. “Credit to them for being a run around defense, but there were a couple of plays we didn’t run quite right. We had some blocking errors and got ourselves into a couple of long situations, which is not our game.”

Independence improved to 3-1 while Cardinal dropped to 1-3. The Blue Devils host Fairport Harbor on Friday while the Huskies entertain Cuyahoga Heights.

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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.