STORY BY CORY WOODROOF | PHOTOS BY ANDY COLLIGNON
Well, we didn’t see that coming.
On a five-touchdown night for reserve quarterback Ethan Cash and with two touchdown hat tricks for receivers T.J. Sheffield and Isaiah Collier and a booming start for its defense, the Independence Eagles soared into Brentwood and pulled off the upset of the season over the Bruins, 42-31.
No one doubted what Indy could do offensively. After all, they were averaging 26 points a game and host two D-1 commits in Sheffield and QB Nathan Cisco. Its defense was letting up points in bunches to start the season, but had tightened up against Franklin two weeks prior.
Indeed, it was the Indy defense who helped hold Brentwood’s potent attack to 10 points at half, just enough to prevent the Bruins’ second-half comeback attempt.
“This is huge for us,” Indy head coach Scott Blade said. “It’s huge for us moving forward. I don’t know what’s going to happen moving forward. But right now, we’re sitting in a spot that gives us a real good chance of making the playoffs, and we couldn’t be happier than that.”
The night got started off right for the Eagles, who saw Collier run in his first touchdown of the light a little after the first quarter’s halfway point. Indy’s defense began to bottle up the Brentwood offense, and the Eagles kept rolling with a 79-yard touchdown play to Sheffield to go up 14-0 with just a few minutes to go in the quarter.
Kicker Tabor Miller drilled in a 51-yard attempt for Brentwood at the start of the second quarter to get the Bruins on the board, but Collier’s ricochet off a would-be tackler sent him on a 73-yard play into the end zone to get Indy a 21-3 lead with a half-quarter to the break.
Brentwood’s offense started to click late with QB Cade Granzow hitting WR Walker Merrill in the end zone to get within 21-10 with 4:42 to half, but just a couple of minutes later, Cash hit his third touchdown of the night to Sheffield to get the 28-10 lead with 2:47 remaining in the second.
But that wasn’t all for the first section of play. RB Tyrus Jackson broke off a 70-yard run with seconds remaining in the half to put Indy in scoring position. Collier got his third of the night just a moment or two later, giving the Eagles a 35-10 lead at half.
Brentwood mounted an inspired effort in the second, with Granzow hitting Avery Williams and Merrill for scores (the latter would get a hat trick of his own in the second half). A key turnover set up Merrill’s third TD for Brentwood to get the team within 11 right at the close of the third.
Sheffield scored Indy’s final touchdown of the night to get them in the 40s in the third.
Though, that would cap the scoring for both teams, as a defensive fourth would help maneuver Indy to its third win of the year and sent Brentwood to its first district loss.
Cash thanked the folks around him for his big night against one of the county’s toughest units to score on.
“You have a good line; that’s how you do it,” Cash said with a smile. “And you give it to your athletes.”
Blade spoke highly of his young QB and on the decision to give him the load of snaps over the starter Cisco, an Idaho commit who is acclimating to a return from injury.
“He’s very much a competitor…a ton of fire,” he said. “Early on in the season, we had him at linebacker, just because he’s got that mentality, that attitude. He doesn’t like to throw an incomplete pass; he doesn’t like to not score touchdowns.
“We’ve got two good quarterbacks. Unfortunately for tonight, we weren’t able to work in a rotation just because things got hot. Ethan had a hot hand, and we went with it.”
Collier said his team worked the middle of Brentwood’s defense to help get their fast start, as well as utilize the looks he wasn’t always getting from the Bruins’ secondary.
“The double-team on T.J. definitely helped,” Collier said. “Thunder and lightning is what we call it. T.J.’s making plays, and I can come back there. Anytime they need me, I’m out here.”
The win gives Independence (3-3) a 2-1 district record, and drops Brentwood (5-2) to 3-1 (equal with Ravenwood). The victory puts the Eagles right back in the district conversation and makes the playoffs much more reachable after their 1-3 start.
“We take a lot of confidence, first of all,” Cash said in what the team gets from the win.”Brentwood’s a good team. They’re respectable. It was just really good for our morale [to win]. It really means a lot in the district race.”
For Brentwood coach Ron Crawford felt his team needed more fire in the first half and felt they should’ve better planned for what Sheffield could do.
Though, he said he was pleased with the second half response.
“We asked our kids to fight back, and [said], ‘Let’s craw back in this thing,’ and they did; they crawled back in it,” Crawford said. “When you play these, it’s always 20-20.
“Right now, our focus should be on the Bruins, and getting ready to play Father Ryan, and getting back to playing with some passion and energy.”
Indeed, Brentwood hosts the Irish next Friday, while Indy travels to an unbeaten CPA.
Below is a slideshow by photographer Andy Collignon.