HUNTINGTON LEARNING CENTER GAME OF THE WEEK
By MADISON BROWDER | Photos by STEVE WHEELER
Friday’s Class 6A opening-round battle between Independence and Smyrna ended in dramatic fashion.
With Smyrna leading 13-7 midway through the fourth quarter, Independence defensive back T.J. Sheffield intercepted a pass to breathe life into the Eagles’ offense. The takeaway paid off, as the ensuing drive was capped off with a short touchdown run by running back Troy Henderson with 2:46 remaining for the eventual 14-13 win.
“It was probably the best drive of the year for us,” Independence head coach Scott Blade said. “You saw incredible heart, incredible effort by that whole offensive unit. They wanted it tonight. They wanted to get one more win, one more chance at playing, one more week, and they played great.”
Henderson welcomed the opportunity to have his team lean on him.
“I just knew I needed to do it,” Henderson said. “My team puts a lot of pressure on me, and I’ve got big enough shoulders to carry that. I’m going to make sure that I never let my team down. I made sure I made the right plays at the right times.”
Independence scored on its first possession with a 6-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Nathan Cisco to Kendrell Scurry.
Smyrna tied it up a few drives later with a Trae Brimm touchdown reception.
Jose Baeza put the Bulldogs on top with a pair of field goals — the first one early in the second quarter and then a 30-yard kick with a minute left in the third.
Following Henderson’s late touchdown run, the Bulldogs marched to midfield before Indy’s defense forced them to turn it over on downs.
Independence will travel to face Ravenwood next week in a second-round battle. Ravenwood defeated the Eagles 22-13 last week.
“It’s just another week,” Henderson said. “Just another week of preparation, it’s another game. [Facing Ravenwood] doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t make this personal or anything like that. It’s just another team that we have to conquer.”