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Patriots forget the Titans

LINDEN — You can’t have “Linden” without the “D,” and you can’t spell “Titans” without the “I-N-T.”

At least, that’s the way it was in the Class A Region 3 showdown as the host Linden Patriots used a strong defense and three key first-half interceptions to oust the Holy Spirit Titans 54-13 last night.

For Linden (4-0 overall, 3-0 Class 1A Region 3), the offense started out a little off-kilter, as Shantrell Braxton fumbled on the first play from scrimmage, but was able to recover. Four plays later, quarterback Ajalon Bruno took a 44-yard tear through the secondary for the first score of the game with 9:30 left in the first quarter. The extra-point kick failed, but Linden had a 6-0 lead.

Holy Spirit (3-1, 3-1 1A-3) drove down the field and got to the LHS 3-yard line, but the Titans’ pass was intercepted by Larente Taylor in the endzone to halt the HSHS drive.

The teams exchanged drives before the Titans scored on a 51-yard pass play from Braden Fowler to John Fowler. The point-after kick gave Holy Spirit a brief 7-6 lead with 5:47 left in the first quarter.

LHS head coach Andro Williams said his team made some adjustments in the first half, a blatant understatement when you consider that the Patriots scored 41 points in the last 5:23 of the half.

Maurice Tate got the ball rolling — so to speak — with a 67-yard TD run with 5:23 remaining. On Holy Spirit’s next drive a pass deflected off of an intended receiver’s helmet and into the waiting arms of Gerald Bruno, returned it 40 yards for another TD with 4:51 left in the half.

It was another two minutes before the Patriots found the endzone again, as Braxton took a 28-yard romp into paydirt with 2:44 remaining. On the Titans’ first play after the ensuing kickoff, a pass was deflected by Linden’s Joe Johnson, Jr. into the air, where Tate grabbed it and brought it home on a 26-yard return with 2:23 remaining in the half.

Just 22 seconds later, Tate recovered a fumble on the HSHS 27, and scored a touchdown on a two-yard run with 47 seconds left in the half. On the ensuing kickoff, Keiunta Goodwill recovered a Titan fumble on the Holy Spirit 31, and Braxton ran a six-yard score with 7.4 seconds left in the half to give the Patriots a 47-7 halftime lead.

Tate scored a six-yard run with 8:15 left in the third quarter to cap Linden’s scoring, and Holy Spirit added a fourth-quarter TD to cap the scoring at 54-13.

“I think it took us a little time for the offensive line to adjust to what they were giving,” Williams said. “That little spurt over the last seven minutes or so — we started making some plays. Defensively, we came up with some big plays, and that helped us. It sort of got us going.

“They (Holy Spirit) didn’t do anything special. They lined up where we thought they were going to line up, and we just had to come out and take care of our business. We had some lapses early on, and they moved the ball on us in that first drive and then, all of a sudden, we woke up

‘Our guys fought; the team worked hard,” Williams said. “They came out and did what they had to do as a football team. Our guys stepped up for us defensively, and that was big. We knew that was a good football team coming in here, and we did what we had to do.

“On a team like this, we have got to make that adjustment defensively. In order for us to have success down the road, you’ve got to be able to make plays defensively against those kinds of football teams. I’m proud of our kids, proud of their effort. Our coaches did a real good job down the stretch, having to make those adjustments defensively. We’re enjoying those kids, and they’re responding to us and doing what they’ve got to do to win.”

Linden was paced again by its running back duo, as Braxton had 15 rushes for 126 yards and two touchdowns, while Tate had 12 runs for 109 yards and three TDs.

Holy Spirit quarterback Braden Fowler was under pressure for much of the game, but still went 11-for-28 through the air with three interceptions and 203 passing yards. John Fowler caught six passes for 124 yards and a touchdown.

Linden stays at home next week when it hosts Class 1A Region 3 rival Billingsley.