By JOSH VARDAMAN
The Independence Eagles, Summit Spartans and Fairview Yellowjackets are all in action Thursday night.
Independence battles Shelbyville Central, while Summit takes on Franklin County and Fairview visits Sycamore.
See below for a closer look at each matchup:
Shelbyville Central (5-1, 2-1) at Independence (6-0, 3-0), 7 p.m. Thursday*
Games after bye weeks can sometimes be dangerous for a team that is in as good of a rhythm as the Independence Eagles are.
The bye the Eagles had before last week’s dominant 41-17 win over Stewart’s Creek didn’t seem to get them off rhythm, though.
“I felt like at times we played really well and at times we looked like we had the week off before,” Indy head coach Scott Blade said of his team’s performance. “It was good to get the kids back on schedule and take the early lead in the region race.”
Independence and its 21-game winning streak welcomes Region 5-5A foe Shelbyville Central to IHS this week on a Thursday night game.
The Golden Eagles go into Thursday fresh off a 46-0 drumming of Lincoln County a week ago. It was, by far, their best defensive performance of the season after giving up an average of 35 points per game through their first five games.
“They’ve given up some points, but they are potentially a really good defense,” Blade said. “They’re used to the offense we run, so we know they are going to be prepared and ready to go.”
Indy’s spread offense will be tested against Shelbyville. Getting production from junior running back Troy Henderson (82 carries, 476 yards, 11 total TDs) could be key to the Eagles’ effectiveness.
Last week, he rushed for 65 yards and a score and was also effective in the passing game, catching two passes for 141 yards and another two TDs.
The Independence offense also hopes quarterback Brandon Hines (1,300 pass yds, 11 TDs, eight INTs), who threw for 299 yards and four touchdowns last week, continues his progression against Shelbyville.
“Every week is a new week and a new challenge for him, and he keeps taking steps forward and is progressing nicely,” Blade said. “He has a great attitude and a great perspective on things … and as he gets more comfortable this offense, he has a chance to be really explosive.”
Defensively, the Eagles will have to deal with a hot Shelbyville offense. The Golden Eagles average 40.6 points per game, and in their last three contests they have scored a combined 143 points.
“They’re a spread attack and give you a lot of different formations,” Blade said. “They’re really similar to us in the fact that they try to hit you in every facet. Anytime you can create one-on-one matchups in the open field it becomes potentially very potent.”
As the only undefeated team left in Region 5-5A, Indy can keep the pressure on the other teams in the league with a win Thursday.
“This is a big game as far as playoff standings, so we expect a great matchup,” Blade said.
Franklin County (3-3, 2-1) at Summit (4-2, 2-1), 7 p.m. Thursday*
History could be made at Summit High School on Thursday.
The Spartans, fresh off a 35-14 win at LaVergne last week, welcome Franklin County with a chance to win their fifth game of the season, which would make a new all-time high for the Spartans.
Off to their best start in school history, it could be easy for the Spartans to slip up against a Rebel team that comes into this week riding back-to-back victories.
“We’re still a young team and haven’t had much success before, but I don’t think they’re going to let it go to their head,” Summit head coach Brian Coleman said. “I think the senior leadership is pretty good, so they won’t let that happen.”
Not only does Summit have to worry about focusing on football instead of history, but its coaching staff also has to make sure the team is prepared on the short week.
“We are just going to push everything back a day,” Coleman said. “We’re trying to keep it the same as much as possible.”
If the Spartans are going to be effective on offense, junior running back Tai Carter (756 rushing yards, 13 total TDs) has to continue his hot season. Franklin County has been good against the run in its last two games, giving up just 118 yards combined on the ground.
“They aren’t going to give up the edge as much as we want,” Coleman said. “They are going to be big up front and use their athletes on the outside.”
Defensively, Summit will have to contend with a Rebels’ offense dedicated on running the ball.
Last week against Columbia, three Franklin County players rushed for more than 50 yards with a touchdown.
“They’re trying to do three yards in a cloud of dust,” Coleman said. “They’re just trying to not let you get any penetration and push you backwards and get three or four yards a pop.
“Usually we’re going to be smaller than the other team … we have to be low and not get pushed around, especially our defensive line.”
Both teams come into the contest at 2-1 in Region 5-5A, one game behind league leader Independence (3-0). After Thursday, the standings will look a little clearer as postseason play inches closer.
Fairview (6-0, 2-0) at Sycamore (4-3, 1-2), 7 p.m. Thursday*
Fairview hasn’t started a season 6-0 since 2013, and in that year it lost its seventh game.
This time around, the Yellowjackets are hoping to improve their start to 7-0 with a Thursday night affair on the road at Sycamore.
The Yellowjackets had a tightly contested game last week against Cheatham County, in they had to score with 20 seconds left to take the 42-38 victory. This week Fairview is hoping to take care of business in a little less stressful fashion.
Behind senior running back Jake Beathard (108 yards rushing, four total TDs last week), Fairview will have to be on its game offensively against the War Eagles. They have given up just an average of 13 points per contest this season and have registered two shutouts.
Where the Yellowjackets may have an advantage is on defense against a Sycamore offense that has struggled, at times.
The War Eagles average just 15 points per game this season. They lost to Harpeth 14-3 last week, which snapped a three-game winning streak.
Thursday’s contest could go a long way in shaping up the Region 6-3A standings. Currently, Fairview is tied with Camden Central at 2-0 atop the league, and the next four teams are separated by just one game.