By SAM McGAW
Extreme Escape Games Game of the Week
Independence (13-0) at Brentwood (9-4), 7 p.m. Friday
The Brentwood Bruins nearly pulled off an upset in their season-opening 21-20 loss against defending state champion Independence on Aug. 20. On Friday, they’ll get the opportunity to spoil the Eagles’ 28-game win streak for a ticket to the Class 5A state championship.
The Bruins ride into the semifinal bout with eight wins in their last nine games.
They took down Centennial 24-21 last week with a game-winning 35-yard field goal by Tucker Day as time expired.
“We’ve maybe become a team that’s difficult to beat,” Brentwood head coach Ron Crawford said. “More games are lost than won, and we’ve found a way to win them and not lose them, lately.”
Special teams is the reason Brentwood remains in the title hunt.
Before Day nailed three field goals last week, the Bruins blocked two extra points to force overtime and defeat Memphis Central in the second round.
“Day is a huge weapon for them,” Independence head coach Scott Blade said. “If they get across the 50-yard line, he has a chance to make a field goal. And if they don’t cross the 50, they’re going to flip that field with his punting. All of the special teams are crucial. Day can put your offense in bad positions with his long punts and kickoffs.”
The Bruins will need a lot more than field goals if they’re going to keep pace with the Eagles, who survived a fourth-quarter onslaught to defeat Cane Ridge 49-46 last week.
Independence presents mismatches across the field with running back Troy Henderson and receivers Landon Guidry, TJ Sheffield and Kendrell Scurry.
Guidry and Sheffield do most of their work from the slot, while Scurry utilizes his 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame on the outside.
Guidry, a Mississippi State commit, has 808 receiving yards, 377 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns this season.
Sheffield’s racked up 705 receiving yards, 330 rushing yards and 15 scores. Scurry, a Tennessee commit, has 39 receptions for 773 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Henderson, who also sees a lot of time in the slot, has 788 rushing yards, 368 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns.
Each member of the quartet averages 17.5 yards or more per reception.
“They have better players, so we have to be a better team,” Crawford stated. “Let’s make them work for anything they get. Let’s don’t give them anything easy and let’s not make it a player error or mistake on our part. We have to gang tackle and we have to make sure we don’t let them throw the ball over our heads.”
Quarterback Brandon Hines is the ringleader of the group. He has 2,981 passing yards, 95 rushing yards, 37 touchdowns (2 run) and 10 interceptions this season.
He recorded 367 passing yards, five touchdowns (1 run) and two interceptions last week. It was his ninth straight game with three or more passing touchdowns.
“Scott Blade is as good of a coach as there is in Middle Tennessee, and you knew Scott was going to make the right decision when he put Hines back there,” Crawford said. “He’s a competitive kid. The biggest thing is his comfort there after playing in 13 games. He has good players around him, so he doesn’t have to make every play.”
Brentwood’s offense will, once again, be without starting quarterback Carson Shacklett after he suffered a broken collarbone against Memphis Central.
Kaden Dreier will get the nod for the second straight week in his absence. He passed for 153 yards and rushed for 62 yards and two touchdowns against Centennial.
“We’ve known all year long we have two really good quarterbacks that were completely capable of playing winning 5A football,” Crawford said. “Apparently, we were right. Kaden has proven his ability and capability, as he moves forward now with getting all of the snaps.”
Dreier has the tall task of pushing the ball downfield against an Independence defense that hadn’t allowed more than 21 points in 27 straight contests before last week.
“We’re not going to shut anybody out and we’re not going to score 50, but what we are going to do is kick it well and we’re going to scrap,” Crawford said.
The winner will face either South Doyle or Farragut for the title.