Football

Independence 32, Mifflin 19

Quick-starting 76ers sprint past Punchers in opener

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Playing without standout running back Naijae Manning, Independence High School football coach Maurice Douglas drew up a series of creative formations and plays intended to get his track stars into open space.

The ploy worked as the 76ers scored on two of their first three plays, to beat Mifflin 32-19 on Aug. 24.

Manning, who suffered a pectoral injury last May, is expected to return Friday, Aug. 31, against Central Crossing.

“We’re a running team, and with our power runner out, we had to find some different ways to beat Mifflin, who we knew was a really good team,” 76ers senior Dominik Ward said.

On the opening play, Ward lined up in a wildcat formation with three receivers on the near side. He took the snap and raced 66 yards untouched to the end zone. Ward was regional champion in the 100 and 200 meters and helped the 76ers 400 relay to fourth place at state.

Vincent Rambo, City League champion in the 100 and regional runner-up to Ward, opened the next drive with 11 yards on the first play. Independence quickly lined up in a conventional set, and fullback Jahquan Walden rambled 50 yards for a touchdown on a dive play.

“I wouldn’t say they surprised us with those plays,” Mifflin coach Gregg Miller said. “We knew they’d run shotgun and wildcat and try to spring free their fast guys. We’ve been fighting slow starts in our scrimmages, too. We were down 14-0 in both of those before coming back. I just don’t know how you come out sluggish for the first game of the season.”

The 76ers closed the half leading 32-0.

Following a Mifflin punt that went 7 yards deep in its own territory, Independence quarterback Romance Hill hit Ward on a 20-yard scoring pass. On Mifflin’s next series, Jashon Crimley ripped the ball from quarterback Javonte Bing and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown.

Another Mifflin fumble set up Independence’s final score of the half. On fourth-and-16, Hill connected with Ward down the sideline for a 34-yard touchdown pass. Ward had 138 total yards in the first half.

In the second half, Derrick Pope scored on runs of 2, 2 and 15 yards for the Punchers.

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