By CHIP CIRILLO | Photos by KINDELL MOORE
Last week, a fourth-quarter comeback by Cane Ridge almost ended Independence’s season.
Another fourth-quarter rally, this one by the Eagles on Friday night, sent Independence back to the Class 5A final.
The defending state champion Eagles rallied from a 10-point deficit with two touchdowns during the last five minutes for a 27-24 semifinal win at Brentwood.
“Both situations: heart of a champion,” Independence coach Scott Blade said. “We made the plays last week that we had to win. This week, it was obviously a lot more challenging. That second half – I’ll never forget that. That’s really something special.”
Cane Ridge scored 27 straight points during the fourth quarter of Independence’s 49-46 quarterfinal win last week.
Independence (14-0) extended its win streak to 29 games, earning a spot in the championship against Farragut next Friday at Tennessee Tech.
Brentwood (9-5) led most of the way and Independence’s only lead came during the final 45 seconds.
Tucker Day’s 22-yard field goal gave the Bruins a 24-14 lead with 11:57 left.
Kendrell Scurry’s 9-yard TD reception from Brandon Hines narrowed the gap to 24-21 with 4:41 remaining.
Troy Henderson’s 2-yard TD run, a dive over the middle, won the game for the Eagles with 45 seconds left.
“I had to get that touchdown so I made sure I did,” said Henderson, who rushed for 108 yards and two TDs on 15 carries.
Hines completed 25 of 36 passes for 280 yards and two TDs.
“I’m so pumped,” Hines said. “Brentwood is one heck of a team. They’re a disciplined team and they’re phenomenal. I give them all the props. Coach Blade put in our mind at halftime, ‘What do you want to be remembered for?’ Our whole team got together and we told each other that we’re brothers and we would go to war with each other. The defense got some insane stops.”
Trailing 24-21, the Eagles got the ball with 2:34 left. They marched 73 yards in eight plays for the winning TD in front of an overflow crowd.
Scurry, a Tennessee commit, caught two TD passes. Many of his receptions came on quick screens with Brentwood defenders sitting back to prevent the deep ball.
“We’re going back to back,” Scurry said of Independence’s return to the championship game.
The Bruins lost three of their first four games, including a 21-20 loss to the Eagles in the opener on Aug. 19.
But they won eight of their next nine.
Brentwood quarterback Kaden Dreier, who became the starter after Carson Shacklett broke his collarbone in a second-round win over Memphis Central, rushed for 105 yards and one TD on 29 carries. He also passed for two TDs.
“At halftime we knew, obviously, they’re 28-0,” Dreier said. “You don’t get that way just lying down in the second half. We knew it would be a tough battle, but unfortunately we came up a little bit short. Give them credit. They’re a really good team. They never quit.”
Dreier’s TD passes to Christian LaBreche and Grant Yocam and a Dreier TD run gave Brentwood a 21-7 halftime lead.
Henderson’s 1-yard TD run cut the deficit to 21-14 with 4:44 left in the third quarter.
“It’s just heartbreaking for our kids,” Bruins coach Ron Crawford said. “They played so very, very hard and with great effort. We came up a few points short, but we certainly took a great swing at a good football team.”