By Maurice Patton
BRENTWOOD – Scoring on three successive possessions to open the second half, Independence overcame a one-point deficit at intermission to keep itself in position for a Region 6-6A championship with a 26-21 win Saturday over fifth-ranked host Brentwood.
The matchup, originally scheduled for Oct. 2, was delayed until this weekend when Independence (5-1, 4-0) was forced into quarantine for pandemic reasons. Inclement weather Friday night further pushed the contest back.
“We’re thankful (Brentwood coach) Ron Crawford allowed us to reschedule,” Scott Blade said following his team’s victory. “I’ve got nothing but respect or his program and what they do.
“This is what people want to see – two really good programs that play hard right to the end. I’m excited that we came out on top.”
After building a 26-7 fourth-period cushion, though, the outcome wasn’t decided until Eagles quarterback Jaxson Campbell converted a third down-and-inches situation from his own 42-yard line, forcing Brentwood (6-3, 3-1) to call its final timeout with 37 seconds remaining. From there, the visitors were able to line up in ‘victory’ formation and run the clock down to zero.
“The bottom line was, we dug ourselves too deep a hole,” Crawford said. “Independence hammered it at us on a couple of drives and we couldn’t stop ‘em. We couldn’t get off the field. And we were out of synch and out of sorts offensively. But give them credit.”
It was the Eagle offense that appeared out of rhythm early, settling for a pair of first-half Sam Henke field goals – a 37-yarder on the first drive of the game and a 42-yarder as the second quarter ended. On the remaining two possessions, Independence didn’t cross its own 30 and the Bruins scored on a Luke Walters 3-yard run to take a 7-6 lead into halftime.
“We weren’t firing on all cylinders,” Blade said. “We missed some opportunities. We were fortunate to be down one.
“(But) we regrouped, we had a big third quarter, and we gave up a couple of plays in the fourth. They’re never going to give up, and I’m proud of our guys for not giving up, either.”
Independence’s defense sparked the second-half surge, sacking Cade Granzow on first-and-15 to put the Bruins further behind the sticks and eventually forcing a punt attempt. The snap on the punt was off line, resulting in a 5-yard loss with the visitors taking over at the Brentwood 29.
Three snaps later, Campbell threw to sophomore Ty Lockwood for 17 yards and the go-ahead touchdown, as the Eagles took a lead they’d never relinquish.
Campbell capped the next two drives with TD runs of 4 yards and 1 yard, with the Bruins gaining just one first down during that span.
“It starts with our linebackers, with Josh Amor and (Ethan) Pickering,” Blade said. “That defense is a group of unsung heroes. They play hard, they care about each other. They’ve got a lot of fight in them. We were able to pressure (Granzow) and make some plays.”
Granzow and the Brentwood offense didn’t go away, though. Trailing 26-7 with 9:34 left after Campbell’s second score, he took his team 82 yards – getting more than half on a pass that was tipped in the secondary, then snared by Aaron Walton for a 43-yard touchdown. After Independence sputtered offensively, the Bruins went down again with Granzow and Walker Merrill hooking up for a 7-yard score with 3:12 remaining.
That was as close as the hosts got, as the Eagles fielded the ensuing kickoff and picked up a couple of first downs to keep Brentwood’s offense off the field the rest of the way.
“(Our key was) inside the box,” Amor said. “With their run game, stopping the run really helped us out. In the secondary, our young guys stepped up in a big way. We’ve been looking for that all year and they finally did it.”
Granzow finished with 256 passing yards and the two late scores, along with a team-high 81 rushing yards on 14 carries.
Independence, meanwhile, got 215 passing yards, 70 rushing yards and three total TDs from Campbell.
Both coaches concurred that playing the contest was paramount, even after Independence was initially unavailable.
“They had to shut down (earlier in the month). We both agreed we wanted to win or lose our game on the field,” Crawford said. “We had to get out of a contract with Knoxville Catholic, they had to get out of one with Pearl-Cohn. I really appreciate both our opponents letting us do that to play a region game.
“Our goal is always to win our league. That’s real, that’s tangible, and it’s a good league, as good as any from top to bottom in the state.”
That’s still Independence’s goal as well, and the Eagles host Ravenwood on Friday with a chance to accomplish that.
“We’ll enjoy it tonight, and then we’ll start looking at Ravenwood,” Blade said. “They’re a terrific team, another team that’s been a thorn in our side. But that’s our schedule. That’s what you sign up for.”
Brentwood finishes the regular season Friday against visiting Centennial.
Independence 26, Brentwood 21
at James C. Parker Stadium
I 3 3 13 7 – 26
B 0 7 0 14 – 21
|I – Sam Henke 37 field goal (7:15)|
|B – Luke Walters 3 run (8:11), Tanner Weber kick|
|I – Henke 42 field goal (0:00)|
|I – Ty Lockwood 17 pass from Jaxson Campbell (9:08), run failed|
|I – Campbell 4 run (1:00), Henke kick|
|I – Campbell 1 run (9:34), Henke kick|
|B – Aaron Walton 43 pass from Cade Granzow (7:26), Weber kick|
|B – Walker Merrill 7 pass from Granzow (3:12), Weber kick|
|Independence – Jaxson Campbell 21-70, Tre Hartwell 10-40, Ethan Pickering 1-3, Chase Harmon 1-5|
|Brentwood – Cade Granzow 14-81, Luke Walters 7-17, Tanner Weber 1-(-5)|
|Independence – Jaxson Campbell 12-22-0, 215|
|Brentwood – Cade Granzow 24-36-0, 256|
|Independence – Calvin Wilson 4-88, Ethan Pickering 1-1, Tyler Kondra 4-72, Ty Lockwood 2-40, Chase Harmon 1-14|
|Brentwood – Walker Merrill 11-118, Aaron Walton 7-99, Scott Collins 1-10, Luke Walters 4-15, Luke Fontechia 1-14|