Former Independence quarterback Chris Leak helped Patriots coach Tom Knotts make a critical decision in Friday's loss to Butler that might've changed the game.
Butler had just missed a 25-yard field goal late in the first half. It would've given the Bulldogs a commanding 24-7 lead. Instead, the Patriots drove down the field and got to the Butler 9, where they faced fourth and goal.
Knotts initially thought to kick a field goal.
"Everybody said to kick it," Knotts said, "and I looked at Chris and he shook his head. So when Butler took a time out, I asked him, 'You think we oughta go for it?' He said 'Heck, yeah.' I looked at (Butler coach Mike) Newsome and said, 'I'm going to go for it now.' He said, 'Go ahead.'"
Patriots quarterback Anthony Carrothers hit Kyle Greg with a 9-yard pass over the middle that cut the lead to 21-14 at halftime.
The Patriots blew several chances to get close in the third quarter. Down 28-14, Greg was hit for a five-yard loss on a fourth and 2 at Butler's 22.
On Independence's next possession, Nyjee Fleming tried to dive in from the Butler 2 but the ball was knocked away. If this were the NFL, replays may've shown the ball broke the plane of the goal line.
But Independence got the ball again, still down 14, and Carrothers was intercepted inside Butler's 25.
Butler put the game away with scores on its next two possessions, but Knotts got to see a new side of Leak, who threw for nearly 16,000 yards at Independence from 1999-2002, led Florida to a college national championship and recently won the Grey Cup championship in the professional Canadian Football League with Montreal.
"Chris has won a championship everywhere he's been," Knotts said, "and to have him on the sidelines was a little intimidating at first for the kids, but to see him as a regular person, pulling for Independence for all he's worth is what makes high school football special.
"After we made that call before halftime, we sort of high-fived and Chris was more vocal than any of my seniors at halftime. That was the biggest criticism of Chris, other than his stature, was that he wasn't a vocal leader. Well, he was giving them the business. He was all over them. When he played for me, he would never say anything. But to me the best leaders don't always have to talk. He led with his play."