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Water Valley weathers the storm in comeback win over Independence

COLDWATER — At halftime, Water Valley head coach Brad Embry told his team Thursday night was going to be just “one of those games” in which they were going to have to “fight and scrap” to come away the victor.

He was right, as the Blue Devils escaped Independence High School with a come-from-behind 21-17 win over the Wildcats.

After Independence’s Yahir Villafana converted a 30-yard field goal attempt to take a 17-14 lead with just over three-and-a-half minutes left, the Blue Devils (5-2, 2-0 Region 2-3A) responded. Quarterback Jacob Truss led his team on a 9-play, 80-yard drive and capped it with a five-yard touchdown run for the win with 26 seconds left.

“That’s what it’s all about. Find a way to win,” Embry said. “You got to be tough. That’s what we said at halftime. You’ve got to fight, scrap, claw. It’s raining at halftime. We’re fumbling, bumbling stumbling everywhere.”

With the game knotted at 14-all at the break, Mother Nature made her appearance midway through the third quarter. With a heavy downpour that lasted nearly the rest of the game, neither team could find the end zone, or convert a field goal, until Villafana’s.

The Blue Devils also had to overcome the officials and their own mistakes. They were flagged for over 100 yards of penalties, with several holding calls and face mask penalties that killed offensive drives and on defense that allowed Independence (5-3, 1-1) to keep their drives alive.

Truss threw for 215 yards and one touchdown while rushing for 108 yards and two scores. He also threw two interceptions.

Wide receiver Darius Tolbert was Truss’s favorite target all night on the outside. The pair connected for 114 yards and a touchdown.

“What (Independence does), defensively, they give you the zero ball on the outside and they try to take away everything else and they allow some run lanes on the edge,” Embry said. “They’re good in the middle. It’s hard to run right at them.”

Wide receiver Trey Newsom accounted for both of Independence’s touchdowns. The first came on the opening drive of the game with a 12-yard catch and the second was a 70-yard reception late in the first half to tie the game.

With two wins to begin region play, Water Valley is off to a good start to return to the playoffs and defend their Class 3A state championship from a year ago. Next week, they host Holly Springs before returning to the road to take on North Panola on Oct. 25.