Ashburn, VA (September 2, 2021) - On a perfect late summer evening , the Independence Tigers opened the 2021 football season in front of a roaring crowd, a packed Ambush, and a marching band whose huge sound matched the team's expectations for the season. Set to play the visiting Riverside Rams, the main question was could the Tigers live up to the hype?

Chas Sumser Photography was there to capture the action and emotion and posted a gallery of images from the game.

At least for this night, it was pretty clear that the potential is real. Eight minutes into the game, after a punishing, run-only drive that ended with star quarterback Brian Courtney in the end zone, the Tigers established themselves as a VHSL Class 5 power to be reckoned with.

Riverside could not handle the ensuing kickoff, and Independence pounced on the muff to regain possession at the Rams' 31 yard line. It took only a few plays for Courtney to find his favorite target, Josh Hand, for another Tiger score, the first of a combination that would wreak havoc on the opposing defense throughout the first half.

With Indy leading, 14-0, Riverside put together their first solid drive of the game. But they stalled at midfield and were forced to punt. Courtney promptly hit the speedy Hand for a long touchdown down the left flank, increasing the Tiger lead to 22-0, after a two-point conversion.

When the punt at the end of the Rams' next possession fell to Hand, he did not disappoint. Starting on the left side of the field and weaving in and out of the Riverside punt coverage, he scored his third touchdown in the right side of the end zone. Now leading 29-0, the Tigers were simply running away with the game.

Riverside finally found its scoring touch on a breath-taking 69-yard bomb from Will Lind to Gabe Karstaedt, but that bit of momentum only delayed the inevitable as Courtney connected with Gabriel Coulthurst to give the Tigers a commanding 36-7 lead at halftime.

Courtney did not play after the break, but his position was filled ably by a combination of players exemplified by two running touchdowns from Clay Ash, pushing the lead to 49-6 at the end of the third period.

By this time, the Rams were banged-up and perhaps a bit demoralized, but they found a silver lining in a fourth quarter that featured two Riverside touchdowns and none for the Tigers. A victory was out of reach, but a solid fourth quarter for Riverside could ignite the team for next week's challenge.

And, yes, the Tigers lived up to the hype.                                        

Final Score: Independence 49 - Riverside 21

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