BY CORY WOODROOF
After letting the Spartans get the best of them in 2017’s Border Battle and letting Oakland rough them up in Week One, the Independence Eagles had just about had enough.
Forget falling in style into 2018 and into the new year’s rival game against Summit; it was time to soar.
“It’s a big thing because there are a lot of question marks,” Independence head coach Scott Blade said of the team’s victory coming after a tough start.
“When you play as poorly as we did last week…for us to bounce back, because you’re really unsure…we kind of blew through the scrimmages with no real troubles, and then you play the number one, you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re a long way from that.’ So, to be able to bounce back and find a little bit of a groove is very important.”
And soar they did. The team rode the arm of QB Nathan Cisco and strength of wideout T.J. Sheffield to a 42-32 win over the Spartans.
Cisco, an Idaho commit, rallied for 342 yards in the air on 19/22 attempts and three touchdowns, while Sheffield, a Purdue commit, scored two touchdowns and 165 yards on nine receptions. He had a third on the ground.
It’s almost as if these guys have done this before.
“We’ve been practicing all week, preparing for this game,” Sheffield said as an Indy fan walked by and called him the best wide receiver in the state. “We just came together as a team and made it happen tonight.”
Summit got the night started out right with a recovered fumble on defense and a 40-yard touchdown run from star George Odimegwu. Though Independence wasn’t too far behind from a ground gain from their own star in Sheffield. Toward the close of the first, Cisco found Sheffield in the air for a 22-yard touchdown to get the Eagles out in front 14-7.
A trick play saw Summit QB Destin Wade flip the ball to Odimegwu, who threw a touchdown pass of his own to John Casey to get Summit back in it 14 all, but before half, Cisco found his other favorite target, wideout Isaiah Collier, for six. The Eagles led 21-14 at the break.
In the third, Summit roared back with a nice drive, capped by a Tre Hunter touchdown. But, a missed kick gave Independence the chance to answer with another Cisco-to-Sheffield touchdown. Summit’s Nafis Waldon got the score within two 28-26 with a 75-yard haul to the end zone, but then, Independence’s ground game caught fire.
Two runs for points from Collier and Colby Logan put Independence up 42-26 at the end of the third, and from then on, a late-in-the-fourth Odimegwu touchdown from Wade only made the final score look better. Independence would take this one, 42-32.
“We wanted to keep doing what we were doing,” Cisco said of the team’s mentality after the half that helped them salt the game. “Keep slinging the ball, keep running the ball, just make sure the offensive line kept their confidence.”
Collier had 124 in the air and 46 on the ground for Indy, while Logan had 44 rushing yards with his score.
“That’s our offense,” Blade said of Cisco and the team’s vestatile group of weapons. “We have to be able to be balanced. We have to be able to get teams to honor the run. Otherwise, they can drop eight and really give us fits in the passing game.”
For Summit, Wade had 92 yards and a touchdown behind center, while Odimegwu finished the night with 102 yards and a touchdown. Weldon had 82 yards on the ground to go with the score, and Casey had 70 yards on three catches and a touchdown.
“I think we just kind of ran out of gas a little bit more than anything,” Summit head coach Brian Coleman said of what widened the margin between his team and Indy as the second half wore on.
Summit’s had an emotional two week between two hot rivalries: one won against Spring Hill with pouring rain, one lost against Indy in a battle at the border.
That’s not lost on Coleman.
“The way the schedule shakes out, you’ve got to get your non-region games in the beginning, and our non-region games happen to be our two rivals,” he said.
He finds these games important, but ultimately, not as important as you might think.
After all, these games don’t affect the region standings. He said hopes his guys keep their eyes on when district play starts.
“We want to win [these games]; we want a great record,” Coleman said. “In the grand scheme of things, you’re after that region championship…that’s what we’re after, [as well as] a good seating in the playoffs.”
Independence will look to grab a district win against Centennial on the road next Friday, while Summit will attempt to rebound next week when they host White County.
Blade commends his team’s attitude in practices and for their performance, but admits, “we’ve still got a long way to go.”
Photo from a fall 2017 Eagles game.