In two of the last three seasons, the Brentwood and Independence football teams have battled in both the regular season and playoffs. On Friday, the two foes from opposite ends of Williamson County will meet in Thompson’s Station with the Region 6-6A lead on the line in the first meeting since 2018's wild double-overtime thriller.
“There’s no doubt the stakes are high,” said Brentwood coach Ron Crawford, whose 5-1 team is ranked No. 5 in the latest 6A AP statewide poll. “Last year, they embarrassed us at home and in the playoffs, we were able to squeeze one out.
“When you go back to 2016, they beat us by in close games twice, so we definitely know each other well. We anticipate another great battle.”
The Bruins were bested 42-31 at home in the regular season last year, but held off the Eagles in a 27-24 double-overtime thriller in a Class 6A Second Round playoff matchup.
Brentwood is coming off a 21-14 win against Christ Presbyterian Academy, the defending Division II-AA champions. Independence, which cracked into the 6A poll at No. 10 this week, rallied for a 31-24 win at Hendersonville in Week 7. Both hold 2-0 records in region play.
The two veteran coaches agreed on being intensely familiar with one another, but also having similar schedules that have tested their teams through the first six weeks.
“I still think that they are the best team we have played to this point in the season,” Indy coach Scott Blade said. “I also think the some of the teams we have played have records that don’t tell the full story because both schedules have been a gauntlet of incredible teams and incredible games and incredible outcomes.
“We are both 100 percent battle-tested at this point, so I just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Senior quarterback Ethan Cash has thrown for 1,374 yards this season with 11 touchdowns to just four interceptions. He’s also rushed for four TDs and is a primary focus for Crawford’s defense.
“Cash, when he takes off, we have to be able to bring him down in a hurry,” Crawford said. “He is just extremely accurate with the football and he takes care of the ball.”
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Junior Jaxson Campbell and senior Chayce Bishop average more than 75 yards receiving per game for the Eagles and have combined for 10 touchdowns. Bishop, who missed the Hendersonville game with an ankle injury, will return to face his former team. He has seven total touchdowns and 537 all-purpose yards.
The Indy defense, anchored by Josh Amor, Zach Smith and Ethan Pickering among others, shut down Hendersonville last week as the Eagles outscored their hosts 17-0 in the second half. They’ll face a Brentwood offense led by junior quarterback Cade Granzow Friday.
Granzow has thrown for nine scores and ran in eight others. Junior Walker Merrill leads the team in all-purpose yards, netting 75 per game with a team-high 23 receptions. Defensively, the Bruins will lean more on seniors Xiere Howard and Sterling Ambrose – the teams leading tacklers. Fellow senior Will Laughlin suffered an injury last week.
“Our kids have done well in the face of adversity,” Crawford said, noting Laughlin and Bryce Bergholtz – another defensive standout who was injured in Week 3. “We are battling, just like everyone else, to stay in this thing. They are fighting through injuries like us.”
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Blade said the chess match will come down to the details.
“The wrinkles in each team, we are both trying to find what keeps the other off-balance, and with our history, it comes down to those minuet details,” Blade said. “This just being a county rivalry shows how much is on the line. I mean, there’s a lot of history here, but regardless, we have to be ready for that final stretch.”
Indy holds a 7-3 mark against the Bruins in the last 10 meetings, but Brentwood has won two of three in the last two seasons.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday.