As they say, all good things must come to an end. And for Charlotte (N.C.) Independence, the Patriots 109-game winning streak came to a screeching halt Saturday at the hands of Elder in a 41-34 thrilling overtime match up in the Third Annual Kirk Herbstreit Ohio vs. USA Challenge at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium.
Matt Natali was on hand and has a recap of the action.
CINCINNATI – As they say, all good things must come to an end.
And for Charlotte (N.C.) Independence, the Patriots 109-game winning streak came to a screeching halt Saturday at the hands of Elder in a 41-34 thrilling overtime match up in the Third Annual Kirk Herbstreit Ohio vs. USA Challenge at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium.
Tied 34-34 at the end of regulation, Elder started with the ball on the Independence 20-yard line and on the second play of the possession quarterback John Groene connected with receiver Josh Jones for a 14-yard touchdown strike giving the Panthers a 7-point advantage following the point after.
Independence had its chance to answer but on third down Patriots quarterback Anthony Carruthers was picked off by Elder senior defensive back Keith Hamburg to seal the win for the Panthers.
“When you go out and play a team with such a high profile with such a great streak, its huge,” Elder head coach Doug Ramsey said.
Elder trailed 27-14 at halftime but the Panthers defense allowed just one Independence touchdown in the second half outscoring the Patriots 27-7 after the break.
“Mentally, we made some mistakes in the first half,” Ramsey said. “I told our guys at halftime that if they stop making the mental mistakes that we could win this football game. I told them that we are good enough to beat this team.
“I was really happy with our defense in the second half,” he added.
On Elder’s second possession of the second half, running back Nick Gramke punched the ball across the goal line to pull Elder within six points following a 49-yard Eric Linneman interception return to the Independence 1-yard line.
After Independence’s first punt of the game late in the third quarter, Elder orchestrated an 11-play, 90-yard scoring drive capped off by a 10-yard touchdown pass from Groene to tight end Kyle Rudolph on third down and goal to tie the score 27-27 in the fourth quarter.
The Anthony Milano go-ahead point after failed, though, leaving the score even.
Independence answered on its ensuing drive scoring in 13 plays, which included two fourth down conversions, going 70 yards to pay dirt finished off by a Rodney Chisholm 2-yard run into the end zone.
The Robbie Ward point after put Independence up 34-27 with just over four minutes left in regulation.
With its back to the wall, Elder strapped in for a 12-play, 70-yard scoring drive of its own highlighted by a 36-yard Rudolph reception on fourth down with 1:31 left in the game.
Gramke finished off the drive with a 1-yard TD run and Milano tied the game 34-34 with the point after.
“If we don’t catch that, the game is over. Luckily, we have a quarterback that is smart enough to throw the ball up to the guy who is 6-foot-7 and more athletic than anybody on the field,” Ramsey said.
Rudolph added, “My teammates look up to me to make that play and if I don’t go out and just give it all I have on those plays I’d be letting all my teammates down.”
Independence had a chance to put the game away with three seconds left but a 48-yard Ward field goal attempt fell short.
Elder and Independence combined for 846 yards of total offense with the Panthers tallying 377 and the Patriots registering 469, respectively.
Groene finished 17-of-25 passing for 232 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Gramke paced the Elder ground attack with 130 yards on 27 carries and three touchdowns, including a 7-yard scoring run in the first quarter to tie the game 7-7.
The Panthers rushed for 145 yards as a team.
Rudolph, a Notre Dame recruit, had four catches for 57 yards and two touchdowns, including a 5-yard scoring reception in the second quarter to pull Elder within a touchdown.
Nick Olthaus led all Panthers receivers with 72 yards on six catches. Jones had four receptions for 70 yards and the game-winning touchdown.
“I feel our receiving corps with (Jones) and (Olhaus) is as good as any in the state. We’ve got guys that can make plays,” said Ramsey.
Carruthers, just a sophomore, lit up the Cincinnati skyline for 346 yards passing on 25-of-37 attempts with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
“It was his first game and he showed a little bit of inexperience from time to time but he really competed. He is hurt right now. Mentally, he is crushed. All of us are,” Independence head coach Tom Knotts said.
Javon Rembert reeled in the bulk of Carruthers’ passes with 11 receptions for 197 yards and a 31-yard touchdown to put Independence up 20-7 early in the second quarter.
Independence had 123 yards rushing led by Chisholm with 110 yards on 29 carries and three TDs.
An Uncanny Coincidence
Independence’s last loss before the 109-game winning streak began occurred on September 1, 2000 – exactly seven years to the day of Elder’s overtime win.
“Now, a state championship has to be our goal and we can forget about the streak,” said Knotts. “Good things like that don’t last forever. That is not how life is and we had it coming.
“I had my heart set on 151,” Knotts said in reference to the national winning streak record held by Concord (Calif.) De La Salle, “but life isn’t about a winning streak. We have a good football team and it was sad to see it end like that,” he said.
Carruthers could be the next great signal caller in the long line of talented quarterbacks to come out of Independence. Former Florida quarterback Chris Leak is an Independence graduate as well as Georgia quarterback Joe Cox.
Elder was involved in a shootout in last year’s Ohio vs. USA Challenge as well but came up short falling to Concord (Calif.) De La Salle 56-38.
As mentioned, De La Salle holds the national record for most consecutive wins with 151.
“It feels a lot better this time around,” said Ramsey.
Groene saw his first varsity action last year against De La Salle following an injury to then-quarterback Derrick Ventre in the game.
Déjà Vu All Over Again
In last year’s Challenge, another winning streak was broken, though much smaller.
Tied 22-22 with Cincinnati St. Xavier in overtime, Lakeland (Fla.) went three-and-out and opted to kick a 41-yard field goal. Kicker Matt Roddenberry bounced the ball off the crossbar through the uprights to put the Dreadnaughts up 25-22.
On St. Xavier's first play from scrimmage in the overtime, senior quarterback Ryan Morris threw an interception to Lakeland defensive back Steven Wilks to win the game and end the Bombers 18-game winning streak.