By J. DANIEL ROLLINS
for the Daily Telegraph
It was a scene so bizarre Friday night at Garten Field, that even Alfred Hitchcock would have balked at it.
Summers County walked away after the first quarter of play with Independence, leading 29-0.
The strange part?
The Bobcats offense never saw the field.
In fact, it would be almost two minutes into the second quarter before they would even take a snap.
The Class AA No. 6 Bobcats defeated the struggling Patriots 51-0, scoring 37 points in the first half — none of which came from their offense.
It was something that neither Summers’ Nate Tanner nor Independence’s Chris Vicars had experienced before.
“To be truthfully honest, I’ve played a lot of games and I’ve watched a lot of games,” Tanner said.
“I’ve never seen anything like it or been a part of anything like it.”
It’s something his young quarterback agreed with.
“It was really weird,” sophomore Matt Ryan said. “It was almost awkward, just not playing offense and letting our defense do all the work. I mean, our defense is the one that won the game.”
It even stumped the veteran coach in Vicars, who spent many years as an assistant in Virginia before moving to West Virginia last year.
“Never quite been in anything like that,” Vicars added. “I’ve been in a couple games that snowballed on us, one bad thing after another, but I’ve never — and I said it to the coaches on the headset — seen a defense not get to play for an entire quarter.”
It started early for the Bobcats, when Ryan returned the opening kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown, taking just 17 seconds off the clock.
It would only be a few seconds later when Sean Willey would pick off a pass from Independence’s Ryan Brandstetter — starting in place for the injured Brian Sexton — and find paydirt of his own.
The Bobcats would return two more interceptions and a fumble for a touchdown before their offense would even score.
“We had five non-offensive touchdowns,” Tanner said. “I’ve got to commend our defense. They’ve been solid the whole year, except for last week (in a loss to Covington, Va.); we gave up some big plays.
“So tonight was nice. We were making huge plays and turning them into scores. It’s always nice to do that.”
The Bobcats finally got their offense on the field in the second quarter, but their former defensive coordinator, Vicars, was waiting for them.
His Patriots defense stopped Summers, holding the Bobcats to only 31 yards in the first half.
“Had I known that before the game, I would have been excited about that,” Vicars said. “You look at the game and I think we held them to only eight or nine plays in the first half.”
“On a usual night, that’s bad,” Tanner said. “Technically, if you look at it, the times we did have the ball in the first half weren’t very good. We had some turnovers. That’s a negative to take away from the game. But in the second half, the kids picked it up offensively and we were able to execute and it worked out well.”
The Bobcats added 200 more yards of offense in the second half, mostly on the ground, thanks to the bull-like running of JaQuan Ayers.
“All I was thinking was ‘end zone,’’’ Ayers said. “It’s exciting. Normally I don’t have big games. I know my role — it’s blocking for my backs like T.J. (Smith), Matt and Zay (Isaiah Brown). I take care of my backs. I’m a lineman pretty much, but tonight I’m glad I got the ball and got to score a little bit.”
The win brings the No. 6 Bobcats to 6-1 on the season, setting up a big battle next Friday with Class A power Meadow Bridge and its star running back, Jake Parker.
“I think this was a big one for our defense,” Tanner said. “They’ll need it going into next week.”
His senior leader, Smith, was just happy to get the win.
“For me, I had a sour taste in my mouth from last week,” he added. “I think everybody wanted to come out and make a statement. We really didn’t care how that statement was made. Tonight it just happened to be defensively. I think everyone came out and played as a team. That’s really good this late in the season leading us into the playoffs.”
The road trip continues for Independence next Friday at county rival Liberty.
Independence (2-5)...........0 0 0 0 — 0
Summers County (6-1)........29 8 14 0 — 51
SC: Matt Ryan 85 yard kickoff return (Triton Sears kick.)
SC: Sean Willey 31 yard interception return (T.J. Smith pass.)
SC: T.J. Smith 51 yard interception return (Sears kick.)
SC: JaQuan Ayers 22 yard fumble return (Sears kick.)
SC: Ryan 61 yard interception return (Sears pass.)
SC: Erik Lindsey 13 yard pass from T.J. Smith (Sears kick.)
SC: Ayers 6 yard run (Sears kick.)
RUSHING — I: Avery Swearenger 1-5, Colton Ward 10-76, Ryan Brandstetter 3-(-16), Dustin Justice 14-23, Alex Daniels 4-24, Brandon Treadway 4-7, Chance Rhodes 4-11, Chris Mills 12-45. SC: Isaiah Brown 4-26, Matt Ryan 1-19, T.J. Smith 5-49, Robert Dalton 1-(-2), Nathan Grimmett 1-7, Greg Shrewsbury, 2-14, Dillon Smith 2-3, Dante Ellis 2-19, Jay Hess 1-2, JaQuan Ayers 7-48, C.J. Shrewsbury 1-5.
PASSING — I: Ryan Brandstetter 0-3-3-0, Colton Ward 0-1-1-0. SC: Matt Ryan 0-1-0-0, T.J. Smith 2-2-0-25.
RECEIVING — I: None . SC: Erik Lindsey 2-25.
TAKEAWAYS — I: Jeremy Kiblinger (FR). SC: Matt Ryan (2 INT), T.J. Smith (INT), Sean Willey (INT), Isaiah Brown (FR), Nathan Grimmett (FR), JaQuan Ayers (FR), Jeremiah Collins (FR).