Knights score three first-quarter TDs in 2:11 to cruise past Independence
THOMPSON’S STATION – Pope Prep’s offense had been its best asset through three weeks, but the defense joined in on the fun Thursday evening.
More specifically, Josh Mailander did a lot of the heavy lifting with three interceptions, returning two for touchdowns in the Knights’ 45-14 victory at Independence.
Those touchdowns came in the span of 1:51 as Pope Prep (4-0) raced out to a 21-0 lead in less than three minutes. Kenny Minchey found Chet Lax on a 6-yard touchdown to begin the scoring.
Following Lax’s touchdown reception, the next play saw Cody Pagach target Ty Lockwood, but the pass deflected off of Lockwood’s hand and right to Mailander, who cruised 30 yards the other way to give the Knights a quick 14-0 advantage.
On the next series, another try for Lockwood went wide of the tight end and Mailander was there again, this time with a 37-yard return and a 21-0 lead. The damage had been done in a span of 2:11.
“We knew they were going to try to go to (Lockwood), he’s their best player,” Mailander said. “I was going to be man-up on him. I just saw the ball in the air and was lucky enough to make some plays.”
Elijah Robb added the first of two short touchdown runs in the second quarter and a 32-yard field goal from Will Arbuckle had the Knights up 31-0 in the final minute of the first half.
The Eagles (2-2) put together a drive to get themselves in range for a heave to the end zone, but with time running out, Mailander struck again. After corralling his third interception, he weaved a path through the Indy offense-turned-defense for what would have been a 100-yard touchdown, but an illegal block nullified the score.
Minchey played the first half of the contest before exiting near halftime with a slight shoulder injury. The Pitt commit is expected to play next week when the Knights host Baylor.
With the mercy rule running clock activated to begin the second half, Seby Nelson relieved Minchey and found Colin Cook on a screen pass for a 26-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
“I thought Seby came in and did a great job of moving the ball down the field,” Pope Prep head coach Brian Sneed said. “We challenged them at halftime to continue ‘choosing the shield’ on every play, regardless of who’s in the game and I think we responded well to that tonight.”
Robb punched in a 3-yard touchdown run, part of his 132-yard night, and Pope Prep had wrapped up its scoring for the evening.
“Our offensive line is young,” Robb said. “We had a bunch of seniors graduate last year and that was kind of the question about us this year, about how’s our offensive line. We’re doing great.”
Brooks Sapone took over at quarterback and led the Eagles down the field, finding Daniel Morales for a 22-yard touchdown to end the Knights’ shutout bid on the first play of the fourth quarter. Sophomore Clay Davis found a hole and raced 52 yards for the final points of the contest on Independence’s final possession.
“It’s not a region game, so it’s not devastating for us,” Independence head coach Scott Stidham said. “If it is, we’re softer than I thought. We’ll recover, go back to work tomorrow and get ready for a big region game next week.”
Independence travels to Franklin in Region 7-6A play next week.