Friday marked the start of 5A playoff football, but Independence looked just as sharp as it did in the regular season.
The undefeated Eagles (11-0) prolonged their winning streak to 26, defeating Gallatin 35-0.
“I feel like the pressure of this winning streak keeps us motivated,” senior receiver/safety Landon Guidry said. “We don’t want to be the ones to end it.”
The defending 5A state champions aren’t slowing down anytime soon.
Despite a slow start, Indy scored the opening touchdown on a 34-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brandon Hines to receiver TJ Sheffield.
Hines threw two additional touchdown passes in the first half to receivers Kendrell Scurry and Guidry.
“We have a great coach in Coach (Scott) Blade,” Hines stated. “He calls the plays to make us successful and it’s our responsibility to execute when the time comes. He called a great game tonight. He recognized the coverage, and when he recognizes it, I recognize it. The people up front make it a lot easier on me. I didn’t get touched one time tonight, which is huge for them.”
Independence will host Hillsboro (7-4) next week. The Eagles defeated HHS 28-20 in the quarterfinals last season.
After catching a touchdown and converting on the two-point attempt, Guidry scored a rushing touchdown to put the Eagles up 28-0 at halftime.
“Big plays on offense kept the drives going,” Guidry added. “Sometimes, we get stopped and the offense couldn’t do anything. But we counted on our wide receivers and our running backs to make big plays whenever needed and our defense played lights out tonight. We couldn’t be more happy about it.”
It wasn’t turnovers or flags that stymied Gallatin’s offense, but instead a dominant showing from Indy’s defense, which often struggled to move the ball past midfield.
Gallatin (6-5) was also without 2000-yard rusher and 5A Mr. Football semifinalist Jordan Mason, who was out with a leg injury suffered last week.
Both offenses slowed down to begin the second half, failing to drive the ball into the red zone. But early in the fourth, Indy solidified its victory on a rushing touchdown from Sheffield. The running clock began thereafter, and substitutes got some playing time in the fourth.
“We take each play at a time and try to win the next play,” Hines said. “Right now, we have one game left. It’s this Friday. We prepare all week, and each day we have to get better and better than the day before. That’s what keeps us humble, because we have to focus on what’s right in front of us and beating the man in front of us.”