With a touchdown on the game’s first play from scrimmage, it appeared the Capitol High School offense would treat the fans at Memorial Stadium to a high-scoring affair. Instead, it was the defense that shined on Thursday night as the Lions opened up their season on a strong note with a 27-6 win over Independence.
“The defense stepped it up,” Capitol coach Claude Coleman said. “They did it tonight against a real good team and showed that they are meant to be here.”
In addition to battling each other, the two teams also had to go against the Louisiana summer heat as well, and it forced multiple players from both teams to succumb to cramping.
It did not help that both teams were limited in roster numbers.
“We only have about 30 guys on the team, and a lot of them play both ways,” Coleman said. “It’s hard especially in the first game of the season. As the season goes on, they will get used to it, but tonight we saw a lot a guys cramp up.”
One of those players battling the heat was Capitol (1-0) senior running back Jamar Robinson, but he overcame it and rushed 113 yards on 20 carries with touchdown runs in the first and third quarters.
“I did well, but I think I can do better next week,” said Robinson, who left twice because of cramps. “I was shook up a little bit, but I was able to pull through.”
Robinson’s first touchdown came after Capitol senior receiver Javonta Rogers started the game off with a bang by taking the opening kickoff down to Independence’s 3-yard line on an 82-yard return.
On the Lions’ first play from scrimmage, Robinson took the handoff from quarterback Anthony Thomas and barreled his way into the end zone to put Capitol up 7-0 early.
“We have some of the best skill players in the state, hands down,” Coleman said of Rogers and Robinson. “Those guys can run, catch and do it all.”
The loss is not the way Independence (0-1) coach Keith Carona wanted to start his season, but he did take away a few positives, including the play of running back Shannon Cage who led all rushers with 138 yards and scored the Tigers only touchdown.
“Shannon is always going to be there for us and run hard for us,” Carona said. “The opening kickoff really set the tone and put our backs against the wall, but I thought we were able to overcome it. We had our chances.”
Other than Cage, the Independence offense had trouble moving the ball in the first half with its only trip to the red zone coming late in the second quarter after Capitol fumbled a punt snap deep in its territory. But with the Lions defense focusing on stopping Cage, Independence quickly turned the ball back over on downs right before halftime.
“They did a good job on defense and really made it tough for us to move the ball,” Carona said.
“I told our players afterwards that the character of a man isn’t made when you’re on top, it’s when you are struggling, so we’re going to see what kind of character our team has.”
The Tigers got the ball to start the second half and, with Cage leading the way, pushed into Capitol territory. However, the drive came to a halt when Tigers quarterback Davon Steptoe’s second down pass was intercepted by cornerback D’Vondre Sullivan.
Steptoe had a tough night trying to read the Capitol defense. He connected on five passes for 51 yards and was picked off twice.
On the other side, Thomas was impressive at moving Capitol when not handing the ball off to Robinson. He completed 9 of 12 passes for 181 yards. His favorite target was Rogers, who had four receptions for 147 yards.
The two capped off the scoring with 17 seconds left in the fourth quarter on a 52-yard touchdown pass.