INDEPENDENCE – It’s only the second week of the season, and Albany’s already getting the hang of making late defensive stops, and part of it comes from practice paying off.
This time, however, the Hornets got a little something extra to seal a 34-20 win over Independence on Friday.
A week after getting a late stop on fourth down to preserve a season-opening win, the Hornet defense did it again, stopping Independence’s Tyrrick Harness for no gain on fourth-and-3 at the Albany 5 with 4:35 to play.
“I think more than anything, that just shows the discipline that we have on our football team and the leadership that we have that we can really buckle down in tough situations and get the job done,” said Albany coach Mike Janis, who praised his team’s leadership, effort and endurance after the Hornets moved to 2-0. “That’s something we challenge our guys (with) in practice. We put them in bad situations on purpose to see how they respond, and we make it hard on them.”
“We were preaching ‘Bend, but don’t break,’” Albany linebacker/quarterback Nick Pregeant said of the defense’s mentality on the drive. “We still have guys hurt, and we had third-string players stepping up to play defensive tackle. That’s what it’s about – next man up.”
From there, Rhett Wolfe and Justin Parrish shouldered the load on a drive that featured six straight running plays – and that sixth one was the biggest, with Parrish gashing through the Independence defensive front before breaking loose on a 79-yard TD run for the game’s final points with 1:14 to play.
“They had the middle closed, so I had to bounce it out, and luckily I stiff-armed the one defender, and then there was noboby in front of me,” said Parrish, who finished with 208 yards and three TDs on 21 carries. “I’ve just got to score – can’t let them catch me. I turn the burners on.”
The Hornets were flagged for a personal foul on the play before the TD run, but the Tigers declined it.
The fourth-down stop also put the clamps on a second-half comeback attempt by the Tigers, who scored a pair of second-half touchdowns, pulling to within 28-20 on Deangelo Gaines’ 4-yard TD run on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The decisive drive and defensive stop were set up when the Hornets lost a fumble on a double-handoff, which the Tigers recovered at their own 34.
“(There was) no panic,” Janis said of the team’s mindset after the turnover. “(Just) let the guys know, ‘We turned it over, now go get it back for us.’ That’s the biggest thing.”
Gaines, who left late in the game with an injury, had a 61-yard run on the drive, but was chased down from behind by Wolfe on the play before he could score.
Independence capped a 10-play, 69-yard drive with a 4-yard TD run from Harness to cut the lead to 28-14 with 3:50 to play in the third quarter.
Albany clawed back from an early 8-7 deficit with 21 unanswered points to close out the first half with a 28-8 advantage.
After the Tigers took the lead on a Gaines' 2-yard keeper and Gaines’ two-point pass to Harness to pull ahead, the Hornets went to work taking the lead on a drive that was aided by a 15-yard facemask penalty and a personal foul. Wolfe rattled off a 20-yard run to set up Parrish’s 5-yard TD run two plays later for a 13-8 lead.
After forcing an Indy punt, the Hornets took over at the Tiger 39. Eight plays later, Wolfe carried up the middle for a 7-yard score. The Tigers were flagged for offside on the PAT kick, allowing Wolfe to run in the two-point conversion for a 21-8 lead.
“What’s really scary for other teams is Rhett really still doesn’t understand the offensive scheme we’re trying to do,” Janis said after Wolfe finished with 80 yards and two TDs on 12 carries. “He’s a kid that’s and extremely gifted athlete and made some great runs tonight. Once that kid understands where the holes are and when to turn on the jets, he’s going to be extremely explosive and dangerous and tough for teams to deal with.”
Pregeant picked off a Gaines pass after Pierce Ziebarth got a hand on it on the ensuing drive.
“I saw the ball, but it was like it was moving in slow motion, so I knew I had to make a play for my team,” Pregeant said. “I just waited for it to come down, caught it and just covered it up.”
Parrish tore through the middle of the defense for a 60-yard TD run to push the lead to 28-8 with 4:22 to play in the first half.
Albany’s first score was set up when the Hornets stopped Independence on fourth-and-one at the Tiger 42. The Hornets got a little help when Gaines slipped in the backfield on the play.
Six plays later, Wolfe broke off on the left side for a 24-yard TD run for a 7-0 lead.
“I hope these tough battles that we’re in early on really prepare us down the road for future games,” Janis said. “We’re going to play some tough teams, and it’s going to have to grind out like it has the last two weeks. Both of these teams are extremely talented, and I think this really going to benefit us in the long run.”
ALBANY 34, INDEPENDENCE 20
Score By Quarters
Albany 13 15 0 6 -- 34
Independence 8 0 6 6 -- 20
AHS – Rhett Wolfe 24 run (Orlando Pineda kick)
IHS – Deangelo Gaines 2 run (Tyrrick Harness pass from Gaines)
AHS – Justin Parrish 5 run (kick failed)
AHS – Wolfe 7 run (Wolfe run)
AHS – Parrish 60 run (Pineda kick)
IHS – Harness 4 run (run failed)
IHS – Gaines 4 run (run failed)
AHS – Parrish 79 run (kick blocked)
First Downs 13 12
Rushes-Yards 39-276 41-202
Passing Yards 8 75
C-A-I 1-2-0 7-15-1
Punts-Avg. 3-26.3 3-44.3
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 0-0
Penalties-Yards 5-40 14-91.5