Independence stays in district chase with Cougars
By Joe Williams, Sports Editor
|RaShaan Gaulden caught seven pass for 82 yards and a touchdown.
|Indy's Vic Wharton
RaShaan Gaulden caught seven pass for 82 yards and a touchdown, stole two more, taking one to the house, as Independence handed Centennial a second District 11-AAA loss and snapped a three game losing streak with a 31-14 victory in front of a packed house and a TV audience.
Much of Gualden’s success came as sophomore quarterback Andrew Bunch enjoyed a coming out party, hitting 21 of 31 for 262 yards and two touchdowns after being forced into action due to injuries to starter Caleb Hollis.
“We’re very comfortable with Bunch,” said Independence head coach Scott. “He did exactly what we thought he’d do, or what we hoped he do.”
Bunch opened the game by leading the Eagles 66-yards on four-for-four passing, finding Dion Simms from 19-yards out to put Indy up 7-0 in just 61-seconds.
Centennial responded, pounding Deon Sanders off tackle and up the middle. Sanders’ 12-yard run put the Cougars on the board, but the extra point was missed, leaving Indy out in front.
Trailing 14-6 after a 4-yard Bunch to Gaulden scoring pass, both teams failed on fourth-down attempts. Taking over at their own 19, the Cougars decided to open up on third and eight, with Owen Roth looking deep. Gaulden stepped in front of the pass at 45 and never looked back.
“Those pick-six plays are like slow motion all the way,” said the University of Tennessee signee. “You see the quarterback looking down at his receiver and you come down under it and pick it and take it the distance. All in slow motion.”
Drake Dormann put the Eagles ahead 24-6 with a 29-yard field goal to open the second half scoring, before Joe Reitveld followed center Wes Drury across the line from the one to close the deficit to 24-14 mid-way of the quarter.
Centennial threatened twice more, but were turned away by interceptions both times. Vic Wharton snagged one away in the end zone, only to have Tyrell Dodson return the favor for the Cougars with 6:28 left in the game. But that drive was stopped when Gaulden grabbed a tipped ball at the Indy 17. Three plays later Wharton scooted around right end, going untouched for 62 yards and the final 31-14 margin.
“We’re pleased with how hard these kids have worked,” said Independence head coach Scott Blade. “By and large we’re a young team and to see them come of age as the season has progressed and the way they have responded to three heart breaking losses, that’s exciting.”
Sanders reached the century mark for rushing again, gaining 105 yards on 24 carries, but may have been the lone bright spot, according to Cougar head coach Brian Rector.
“He’s a fighter. Plain and simple he’s a fighter.”
That fighter attitude is one Rector did not see in the rest of his team in the last two games.
“We haven’t fought, we haven’t played four quarters and that has to end. And that starts with me,” he said after the game. “We have to learn to play with passion. We have to learn to be tough, to make plays we are capable of making.”
Independence hits the road next week, visiting Dickson County while the Cougars have an open week. And Rector already has plans for the extra time to prepare for the final two games against Dickson County and Franklin.
“We’re going to re-evaluate everything and everybody. If we have to flip the whole thing upside down to get our kids to learn to fight for four quarters, then that’s what we’ll do.
“What I care about is how we respond moving forward. If we lose every game and we them fighting as warriors, I’m okay with that. But at the end of the day that’s not what is happening here and that has to change immediately.”
The Cenennial student section cheers on the team.
Posted on: 10/11/2013