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Independence rallies for comeback win over Franklin

Vic Wharton III #3 of Independence lines up wide as the Eagles score to win the game.

Down 28-10 with 9:30 left in the third quarter, the Independence Eagles rallied behind the passing of quarterback Andrew Bunch and the play making of Vic Wharton, RaShaan Gaulden, and Dom Childress to score 19 unanswered points to defeat Franklin 29-28 Friday night.
“We knew if we could get some stops on defense and get the ball back we had a chance,” said Independence Head Coach Scott Blade. “We never gave up, the kids believed they could win this game, they played hard and battled back.”
A scary moment occurred at the 9:45 mark in the 3rd quarter when Eagle free safety Adam Swayze was hurt as he tackled Franklin running back Colton Black. Swayze was taken off the field on a stretcher after a 20-minute delay on the field.  Nick Hardeman scored from 1-yard out for Franklin on the first play after the delay to put the Rebels ahead 28-10 and seemingly in control of the game.
“The kids rallied around Swayze,” said Blade. “They fought through adversity to come back and win.”
Franklin got on the scoreboard first when Rebel quarterback Joe Critchlow hit receiver D.J. Burns for a seven yard touchdown pass to put Franklin up 7-0 with 47 seconds left in the first quarter.
However, the lead was short-lived as Eagle Vic Wharton III took the kickoff back 96 yards on a zigzagging sideline to sideline run for a touchdown to tie the score at 7-7.
Franklin was apparently trying to kick the ball away from Wharton but Deion Simms pitched the ball back to Wharton on the kick-off.
“We practice that play,” said Wharton III. “We run that in practice all the time and Deion did a great job of getting me the ball and the blocking was great.”
With the game tied 7-7 Independence missed a 32-yard field goal and Franklin took advantage of it by driving down the field behind the running of Colton Black.   Critchlow found tight end Ben Hagaman in the corner for an 8 yard touchdown pass. Kicker Joe Defatta’s kick gave Franklin a 14-7 lead.
Franklin attempted an onside kick after the score (one of four during the night) and Independence recovered in good field position. The Rebel defense held Independence to a 26 yard field goal from kicker Drake Dormann to cut the lead to 14-10 with 3:47 left in the half.
Franklin took the ensuing kickoff and marched down the field with the highlight coming on a Critchlow pass to receiver Luke Hill for 39 yards to set up a Colton Black 5 yard touchdown run. The conversion put the Rebels up 21-10. After another onsides kick gave Independence good field position, the Eagles missed another scoring chance when Dormann missed a 41-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.
“We wanted to keep the ball out of #3 [Wharton] hands,” said head coach Donnie Webb after being asked about four on-sides kicks. “It was our game-plan but my hat’s off to Independence.”
The rally started after Franklin went up 28-10 in the third quarter. Independence drove down the field behind the passing of quarterback Andrew Bunch to receivers Wharton, Gaulden, and the running of Childers with Childers scoring on a 6 yard run. The Eagles missed the extra point but cut the score to 28-16 with 6:26 left in the third quarter.
The Eagle defense tightened, forcing a punt by Franklin. This time Wharton returned the ball into Rebel territory. Childress took the ball 24 yards up the middle for the score and suddenly the lead was only 6 points. Blade elected to go for two but the Rebel defense held tight and stopped Sanders to keep the score at 28-22 with 7:56 left in the game.
After an Eagle stop the Rebels kicked the ball back to Independence with 2:48 left in the game. Starting on their own 48, Bunch looked to Tennessee signee Gaulden on several plays, the biggest coming on a 4th down and five on the Rebel 40 yard line. Gaulden caught a bullet from Bunch for seven yards and a first down. Bunch then hit receiver Seth Hunter for another first down then completed a pass to Sims for a first down with 10.9 seconds left at the 9-yard line. Then it was Gaulden time as Bunch went to his go-to guy on a 9-yard slant in the end zone to tie the game with 5.9 seconds left. Drake Dorman made up for earlier misses by nailing the game winning extra point to give the Independence a 29-28 victory.
“I told the team to get on my back and I will deliver, big time players need to make big time plays,” said Gaulden. “Our sophomore quarterback led us down the field, we were poised and confident we could win.”
Independence (6-3, 4-1 District 11-AAA) travels to Brentwood (3-6, 2-3 District 11-AAA) next week. Franklin (7-2, 3-2 District 11-AAA) will host Centennial (5-4, 3-2 District 11-AAA) in the annual Battle of Franklin.

Posted on: 10/26/2013


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