As a No. 5 seed in the 6-A state football playoffs, Independence has had to travel for its first two playoff games. With upsets over No. 4 Rossview and No. 1 Overton, the Eagles advance to host No. 6 Hendersonville after two road wins of their own.
Independence, currently on a six game winning streak, is excited to play in front of the home crowd after being on the road for nearly a month.
“It’s going to be an emotional game,” Eagles’ coach Scott Blade said. “We’re going to be amped up, but so is the other team. We’re hoping that the 12th man effect, being at home with our crowd and our student section. We usually draw a pretty good crowd and we’re looking forward to that.”
Independence is 4-1 at home this season with its lone loss coming to a Beech team on national television in September. In that game, Beech rushed for 371 yards against Indy, mostly by talented running back Dorian Carter. The first two playoff games the Eagle defense faced featured running backs in Justin Martin (Overton) and Isaiah Johnson (Rossview) who combined for over 4,000 yards and 50+ touchdowns. The much improved defense held those two back and now play a Hendersonville “Wing-T” offense based on the run.
“It’s still assignment football at its best,” Blade said. “The Wing-T, especially as well coached as Coach (Bruce) Hatfield at Hendersonville, he knows it inside and out. He knows how people are going to try to stop it. The minute you slow down one thing they hit you with another.”
“The last three weeks we’ve really hit our stride and our guys have really bought into doing just their job,” Blade said. “It depends on forgetting about all the backfield action and reading the key and going where that key takes you.”
The Independence offense was forced to change its style in the win at Overton. With an offense averaging 38 points going into that game, Independence switched to a ball controlling, clock-killing-style to close out the 17-14 win. The Commando defense will play in multiple looks to keep Independence off balance.
“It’s based out of a 3-4, sometimes they’re in a 4-3,” Blade said. “We’ve seen them use overload coverages, some press coverages. We’ve seen them play cover-two out of it, so we think we’re going to get a couple different things out of them.”
“Doing what we do” is the game plan for Blade and the Eagles. Whatever defense the Commandos show, Independence will take what they give them.
“If it’s not open underneath you go intermediate, if it’s not open outside you go inside,” Blade said. “If they’re shutting down the outside we try and run the ball. Our offense is flexible enough and our whole playbook is out there so it’s just a matter of calling plays at the right time and the kids executing to the best of their abilities.”
“If it turns out to be a ball control, clock control type of game, well, we proved last week that we can do that too. If it turns out to be a shoot out and it comes down to the wire, we think we’ve got some options for that too. You never know at this point in the game.”