By SAM McGAW
Extreme Escape Games Game of the Week
Gallatin (6-4) at Independence (10-0), 7 p.m. Friday
The final phase of Independence’s quest for a second straight state title begins Friday when the Eagles battle the Gallatin Green Wave in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.
Independence, which defeated LaVergne 56-19 last week, rides a 25-game win streak into the bout.
“This is what we’ve been looking forward to all year and here we are,” Independence head coach Scott Blade said. “This is a different challenge. I’ve never coached against Gallatin during my tenure here, so we’re excited about the opportunity to play a new team. We’ll be pumped up for the challenge.”
Independence has defeated teams by an average of 27 points this year.
The offense is guided by quarterback Brandon Hines.
The senior has passed for 2,018 yards, 21 touchdowns and three interceptions this season.
“He’s done great down the stretch,” Blade stated. “He’s continually improved from week to week. Each day at practice he’s getting a little bit better and understanding things a little bit better. He’s already executing at a high level, and that has to happen for us to keep winning.”
Featuring an arsenal of weapons in running back Troy Henderson and receivers Landon Guidry, TJ Sheffield and Kendrell Scurry, the Eagles average 41.7 points per game.
Standing in their path this week is a Gallatin defense that gives up over 25 points per game.
“They’re well-coached, physical and they understand their assignments,” Blade said of Gallatin. “They get after the ball carrier and they get after the quarterback.”
While the play of the offense has been essential to Independence’s success, its defense is what makes it such a difficult team to defeat.
The Eagles allow just under 15 points per game, and they haven’t allowed more than 21 points in a contest all year.
Gallatin will provide Indy’s stout front-seven the toughest challenge it’s seen this season with running back Jordan Mason.
Mason has rushed for 2,048 yards and scored 24 touchdowns this season.
“He’s a combination of size, power and speed,” Blade said. “He really has all of the attributes you’re looking for in a running back. He has great vision, he can out-run you, he can juke you and he can run over you. For us to slow that down, we have to get everybody to the ball carrier in a hurry.”
Sam McGaw is sports editor of Home Page Media Group. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SamMcGawSports.