El Dorado, KS – The Independence Pirates opened the football season with an emphatic conference win, crushing the Butler Grizzlies, 50-28. The offensive onslaught began early, as Dream U sprinted ahead with a 22-point lead in the first half and left the BUCO defense reeling by halftime.
"We had a lot to prove, despite our offensive production last season," said second-year Indy Offensive Coordinator, Alex "Bear" Farah. "We really wanted to show our grit and toughness, especially in short yardage and goal line situations."
The Pirates almost doubled the Grizzlies in total offensive production by the game's end, rolling up 536 total yards to Butler's 281.
In his first career college start, quarterback RJ Walker showcased his ability as a dual-threat, completing 10 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing eight times for 45 yards and finding the end zone twice more for four total TDs.
Walker's top targets through the air were Almount Smith, with three receptions for 87 yards, and Deontay Wilson, who snagged three catches for 86 yards and one touchdown. In total, seven Pirates caught passes in the contest.
On the ground, six different players took carries, with running backs Tytrayon Lewis and Jared Martino distinguishing themselves. Lewis took 15 carries for 88 yards and a touchdown, while Martino rushed seven times for 87 yards and another score.
Trailing 50-14 in the fourth quarter, Butler scored a couple times late to cut the deficit, though the game was never in doubt, due in part to a stifling Pirates' defense.
"I was pleased with our physicality at the point of attack on defense," Indy Defensive Coordinator and Assistant Head Coach Steve McCollom said. "Our goals are always to play fast, physical, and make plays every time we take the field."
Linebacker Kuma Scanlan led the defense with eight tackles. Backing him up were fellow backers James Djonkam with seven tackles and Tra Thomas with six. Djonkam, Thomas, Will Whitsonall, CJ Welch, and Malachi Bailey all notched sacks as well, setting the Grizzlies back 50 yards on the day.
"Great team win," said Independence Head Coach Jason Martin. "It's a little sweeter to beat BUCO in their house. We have to improve in all three phases of the game if we want to contend for a conference championship. It's a long season."
The Pirates will now return to Emmot Field for their home opener against McDougle Technical Institute. The non-league contest will be a brief reprieve from the gauntlet of the Jayhawk Conference. Nevertheless, the Pirates are eager to continue improving upon their success to start the season.
"Despite the score (against Butler), we feel as though we underperformed as a unit," Coach Farah said. "McDougle Tech will bring some unique challenges we haven't seen a lot on film. Our weekly goal, as always, is to go 1-0, and we're excited to play in front of our home fans and improve on what we did last week."
Kick-off is scheduled for 7:00PM CT at Emmot Field in Independence this Saturday.