Independence looked like the Eagles of old Friday night, running and passing their way to a convincing 45-14 victory over Centennial in a Region 6-6A all-Williamson County battle in Thompson's Station.
The victory left Eagles coach Scott Blade feeling better as his team improved to 2-1 overall and 1-0 in region play.
“We did some good things out there and it feels good to start region play 1-0," Blade said. "It was good to get a lot of people involved. We’re still running the ball well and that’s a credit to our offensive line.”
Getting a lot of people involved on offense may be an understatement. Independence used 10 different rushers, led by junior Ethan Pickering’s 71 yards on nine carries, tallying one touchdown. Jack Phillips (5 carries, 27 yards) added a 24-yard touchdown while Chayce Bishop (2-18-1) added an 8-yard score late.
In the air, senior quarterback Ethan Cash found six different receivers during his 16-of-23 aerial performance that netted 185 yards, including a 35-yard scoring toss to Bishop. Brian Pierce was the workhorse for Indy, catching six passes for 69 yards.
Cash also rushed eleven times for 65 yards and two touchdowns.
“We just came out firing from the beginning,” said Cash, who hit 10-out-of-11 passes at one stretch in the first half. “We just never let off the gas pedal.”
Defensively, the Eagles contained Centennial (1-2, 0-2) at almost every turn and a pair of interceptions by junior Jaxon Campbell turned into points for Indy. Campbell almost completed the task on his first pick, returning the ball 45 yards to the Centennial 5-yard line late in the second quarter.
“We watched a lot of film this week, so I was able to jump the route on that one. I should have put it in the end zone,” Campbell said with a smile.
“It was a definite improvement and that’s what we want at this time of the year,” Blade offered, “to improve each week.”
It was a long night for Centennial.
The Cougars managed just 133 yards on the ground, with Desmond Smith claiming 124. Of that number, the bulk came on scoring runs of 60 yards in the second quarter and a 42-yard run in the fourth. Quarterback Grayson Marcel struggled against a swarming defense, finishing just 3-of-15 for 33 yards and two interceptions.
Cougar head coach Matt Kriesky called Smith the bright spot of the night.
“Desmond is a great kid and he kept fighting," he said. "We’ve got to find ways to get him the ball; he’s going to be our little spark plug and get us going.”
Overall, though, the coach watched the early spark flicker away.
“The first two series on defense I thought we played pretty well,” said Kriesky. “But then we just kind of fell apart. Offensively we couldn’t get it together tonight and that’s on me.
“We were our biggest enemy tonight. I saw some things that are uncharacteristic of us and I’m disappointed in that. But we’re going to get those fixed and we’re going to improve.”
Independence 45, Centennial 14
Centennial – 0 7 0 7 – 14
Independence – 7 24 14 0 – 45
I – Ethan Cash 1 yd run (1:20) Sam Henke kick
I – Cash 10 yd run (10:26) Henke kick
C – Desmond Smith 60 yd run (10:10) Carter Potts kick
I – Jack Phillips 24 yd run (6:30) Henke kick
I – Ethan Pickering 5 yd run (5:32) Henke kick
I – Henke, 18 yd FG (0:00)
I – Chayce Bishop 35 yd pass from Cash (9:30) Henke kick
I – Bishop 5 yd run (2:11) Henke kick
C – Smith 42 yd run (2:24) Potts kick
INDEPENDENCE: 39-220 (Pickering 9-71; Cash 11-65; Phillips 5-27; Campbell 3-22; Kried 3-20; Bishop 2-18; Pierce 2-15; West 3 (-10); Hartwell 1-0; Team 2 (-8).)
CENTENNIAL: 14-136 (Smith 9-124; Forrest 2-7; Marcel 3-5)
INDEPENDENCE: 19-27-0, 240 yds (Cash 16-23-0, 185; Thieman 3-4-0, 55)
CENTENNIAL: 3-15-2, 33 yds (Marcel 3-15-2, 33)
INDEPENDENCE: Pierce 6-69; Bishop 3-62; Campbell 3-24; Thieman 1-34; Harmon 2-18; Wilson 1-10; Pickering 1-10; Kried 1-7; Cardella 1-6;
CENTENNIAL: Comett 2-17; Steele 1-16.