By Joe Williams, Sports Editor
Finis Stribling (4) and Kaylan Stribling (17) make a stop against Brentwood. The pair will have to be at their best tomorrow night when the 7-3 Eagles travel to 9-1 Rossview in Montgomery County. Though records would indicate Rossville as a strong favorite, Indy's strength of schedule was much higher than the Hawks. Bill Dorsten
Independence and Page are two of the three Williamson County schools headed for the road in the opening round of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association playoffs tomorrow, as both take somewhat lengthy road trips north of home.
Independence (7-3) at Rossview (9-1)
On the surface, the Eagles are running into a buzz saw. The Hawks 9-1 record includes wins over Clarksville Northeast, Hillsboro and McGavock. Over the past four games, all victories, Rossview outscored their opponents 60-14; the past two 122-0.
Offense has not been an issue. Quarterback Charles Talleyrand has thrown for 923 in just 46 completions, 779 in the last four games and rushed for 873 yards for 1,652 total yards. But it’s running back Isaiah Johnson, the leading rusher in the mid-state, who is lighting up the stat and scoreboards. The junior (5-11, 190 lbs) has gained 1,900 yards and scored 24 touchdowns.
Talleyrand also has the ability to spread the ball around when he throws. Five of District 10-AAA’s top seven receivers are on the Rossview team.
As daunting as those numbers might sound, some numbers, including the record, may be inflated by a weak schedule. Only the Hawks and district champ Henry County, who beat Rossview 29-27, have better than .500 records.
The teams the Hawks rolled over the last four weeks have a combined record of 11-29.
The Eagles, on the other hand, have played a much more difficult schedule in a much more difficult district. Indy has posted victories in the last four games, too, but by a more modest 146-91 margin, rolling up 1,600 yards of total offense.
Indy’s last four opponents posted a 17-14 record and two of those, Ravenwood and Franklin, made the playoffs with the Eagles. Their out of district schedule included a pair of teams playing tomorrow night, Beech and Rutherford County power Blackman.
The Eagles offense is powered by a pair of quarterbacks who started the year basically unknown. Caleb Hollis stayed at the top of the district leaders, throwing for 1,500 yards before a mid-season shoulder injury.
Andrew Bunch took his place and in his first drive hit four-of-four, driving the Eagles 76 yards for a touchdown against Centennial. With Hollis back healthy, Coach Scott Blade has options.
Defensive moves and big plays have been the key for Independence. Vic Wharton III has been returning kicks for touchdowns with an uncanny regularity in the last four weeks, while fellow University of Tennessee commitment RaShaan Gaulden has been doing the same with interceptions.
Lost in those explosions has been the exceptional play of Missouri commitment Finis Stribling and a defensive line that is improving. The D-line will need a great night to stop Johnson.
Page at White House
The Patriots are looking to extend their season as a seven-seed, much as they did last year. In 2012, Page went to Signal Mountain a heavy underdog and pulled a wild 42-41 victory.
The Patriots (5-5) will be the underdogs again, on the road at White House (8-2), the District 9-AA champion. The Blue Devils depend on a grinding, clock-eating offense led by Alex Felts (528 yards, 8 TD’s). White House has attempted less than 90 passes for the entire year, completing less than 50 percent for barely 540 yards.
White House also has not run into an offensive machine like Page. Senior Zak Mizell has thrown over 2,200 yards to 18 different receivers. His favorites have been Trevor Johnson (39 receptions, 330 yards), Mason Smith (32 receptions, 455 yards) and Michael Roberts (30 receptions, 483 yards).
Roberts also leads the team in rushing with 510 yards. Like the passing game, Coach Charles Rathbone believes in keeping defenses off guard by using multiple runners, as 11 different Patriots have carried the football.
Posted on: 11/7/2013