The Walnut Ridge High School football team broke open a close game by scoring five consecutive touchdowns in the second half to defeat host Independence 48-16 in the regular-season finale.

Senior running back Brandon Rice scored three of his five touchdowns in the fourth quarter and finished with 276 yards on 36 carries.

"It was an amazing game. I knew we could do it," Rice said. "We've been successfull the last three seasons against them. We just came out and did what we could do."

Walnut Ridge forced four turnovers and converted three into touchdowns as it finished 6-4 overall and 4-3 in the City League-South Division.

Despite the loss, the 76ers, who fell to 7-3 and 5-2, clinched a Division II, Region 7 playoff berth. First-round pairings will be announced Sunday. However, the loss prevented Independence from sharing the league
title with Marion-Franklin and Eastmoor Academy.

On a rainy night, Walnut Ridge turned the ball over just once, when quarterback Alvin Busbee fumbled inside the Independence 5-yard line.

The 76ers took over and drove 95 yards for the game's opening touchdown and an 8-0 lead.

Walnut Ridge scored twice in the second quarter and led 12-8 at halftime.

Independence running back Devin Clodfelter ran for a 31-yard touchdown to give the 76ers a 16-12 lead with five minutes, 46 seconds remaining in the third quarter and things were looking up for the 76ers.

That's when the Scots defense and Brandon Rice took over.

Rice carried 19 times in the second half for 171 yards and scored four of his five touchdowns.

Rice took off on a 45-yard run four plays after Clodfelter's score to give the Scots a 20-16 lead.

Then defensive back Levelle Stevens returned an interception of Eric Pugh 70 yards for a touchdown and a 28-16 lead with 1:57 left in the third quarter.

Clodfelter fumbled on consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter, which led to two more Rice touchdown runs.

"The turnovers were huge," Scots coach Byron Mattox said. "That's our thing, we got after the ball on defense."

Rice capped the scoring with a 14-yard run late in the game.

Independence outgained the Scots 388-367 in total yards but turned the ball over four times.

Clodfelter rushed 278 yards on 38 carries and finished the regular season with 2,140 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns.

Rice, a senior, finished the season with 2,032 yards and 27 touchdowns.

"It's just great," Rice said. "In June there were just about 30 guys lifting and training and the team just came out there and had my back all season."

Rice will be missed by Mattox.

"The best thing about Brandon is he's a better person than he is a football player," Mattox said. "My hat's off to him, he's got a great future."


WALNUT RIDGE 0 12 16 20 - 48
INDEPENDENCE 8 0 8 0 - 16
I-Jones 10 pass from Pugh (Ross pass from Pugh)
WR-Traylor 55 pass from Busbee (run failed)
WR-Rice 6 run (pass failed)
I-Clodfelter 31 run (Jones pass from Pugh)
WR-Rice 45 run (Rice run)
WR-Stearns 70 interception return (Traylor pass from Busbee)
WR-Rice 6 run (Onhvandy kick)
WR-Rice 32 run (kick failed)
WR-Rice 14 run (Onnvandy kick)