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Class 6A Playoffs

Football Preview: Indy visits Brentwood, again, with quarterfinal berth on the line

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The last time the Independence football team stopped by Brentwood, the Eagles rolled up more than 500 yards of offense and handed the Bruins a 42-31 setback.

Ethan Cash threw for 464 yards with five touchdowns, connecting with TJ Sheffield for three scores and Isaiah Collier for two more in the Week 7 victory. Sheffield, a Mr. Football semifinalist, closed with 11 catches for 286 yards and three TDs.

“Man, I don’t know if I’ve ever been a part of a team that has given up nearly 300 yards receiving to one player,” Brentwood coach Ron Crawford said. “(Independence) is just so explosive. They made some big time plays against us last time and we have to work hard to eliminate those.”

Indy raced to a 35-10 halftime lead on Sept. 28 before holding off the Bruins in the second half. Sheffield ignited the offense with a 79-yard catch-and-run late in the first, while Collier tacked on a 73-yard strike midway through the second. Both added TD grabs from Cash inside the final three minutes of the half to further extend the lead.

The Bruins, who are 9-2 overall, are coming off a 31-11 win over McGavock last week after stopping Centennial 28-21 to clinch the Region 6-6A title two weeks ago. They have won four straight since that Week 7 loss to Indy.

Michael Burke has shouldered much of the ground game in the last two contests after Jordan Nicholas exited Brentwood’s 28-21 last-second win over Centennial with a leg injury. Crawford said he expects Nicholas to return Friday, but Burke will continue to be a featured weapon. He’s rushed for more than 300 yards with multiple receptions in two games.

He had 21 carries for 122 yards and two TDs last week. The dynamic Burke has played wide receiver, taken snaps out of the wildcat and returned kicks for the Bruins.

“He’s a guy that can do so much for us,” Crawford said. “He is the ultimate team guy and has trusted the process and done what his team needed.”

The Eagles settled for a third-place finish in the region standings after a disappointing 37-21 loss to Ravenwood in the regular season finale. Indy bounced back to win 33-14 on the road at Smyrna in the first round of the playoffs for a second straight season.

Cash threw for four touchdowns with three going to Sheffield in the first round win. Chayce Bishop, who transferred from Brentwood to Indy last month, added four grabs for 76 yards and rushed for 30 more yards.

“We thought prior to the Ravenwood game, we were playing pretty good football, but the wheels came off so to speak,” Eagles coach Scott Blade said. “We had an opportunity in the first round to put it behind us and the kids responded as the offense got back on track, while the defense did a good job most of the night limiting Smyrna’s opportunities.”

Blade said it’s always tough to face a team twice in a season, but “all we can do is control our effort.”

“Obviously they are a good team,” he said. “It’s at their place in the second round of the playoffs and there’s all sorts of storylines, but you can throw out records and all past success in this one.”

The winner will face the Ravenwood at Cane Ridge winner in the quarterfinals next week.

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