Story By ZACH HARMUTH Photos By ANDREW COLLIGNON
Whether its ugly or takes two days to finish, a win is a win.
For the second night in a row, Independence (2-0) walked off the field at Centennial (1-1) in this Class 5A state semifinal rematch with the most points on the board. It took over 24 hours to finish four quarters, but the Eagles weathered the storm, literally and figuratively, with a 31-21 win in the Cougars’ home opener.
Troy Henderson, who now has five of Indy’s seven touchdowns this year, scored twice- both on Saturday, when almost a three full quarters were played.
Combined with four Centennial turnovers, which all led to scores, it was a perfect storm for Independence to win its second game of the season and, now, six of the last seven against the Cougars.
Henderson finished with his pair of scores and 102 yards on 19 carries.
Independence committed two turnovers of its own, an interception and a muffed punt, as both teams struggled to find a rhythm offensively.
“Games like this spread over two days are tough on everybody involved,” Independence head coach Scott Blade said. “We felt like the guys played hard. It is hard to come out two nights in a row, to get that emotion, that energy, and go do one quarter and shut it down. That takes a lot of energy out of you, and out of everything.”
Scoring started on Friday with a 1-yard touchdown run by Landon Guidry, which came off the only sustained drive to that point from either team, and gave the Eagles a 7-0 lead with 2:00 left in the first quarter.
When lightning led to a one-day postponement less than a minute into the second quarter, Indy led but the Cougars were driving and down to the Eagle 38-yard line.
On Saturday, after the restart, that drive stalled and the Eagles followed with a Henderson-heavy drive that ended with a 7-yard scamper.
Centennial got on the scoreboard with a 2-yard Tony Wall touchdown reception to cut Indy’s lead to 14-7 with 7:08 left in the first half.
Both teams stalled, traded punts twice and made mistakes as the game went on, with the third quarter scoreless until late.
Backed up and punting from its own 18-yard line, a mishandled Cougar long-snap was recovered by defensive lineman Michael Pierce, giving the Eagles a first-and-goal from the 9-yard line. Centennial held it to a field goal, which extended the Indy lead to 17-7 with time running out in the third quarter.
On the ensuing possession, the Cougars- after three incomplete passes- again were forced to punt, from their own 48. It was touched by an Eagle player, however, and jumped on by Tremond Coffee to set up a first-and-goal for Centennial. Running back Zyon Lee then scored on a six-yard run to cut the Indy lead to three, 17-14, with 11:14 left in the game.
Lee led Centennial in rushing with 47 yards on 13 carries.
After a quick Eagle three-and-out, Centennial got the ball back at its own 15-yard line with a little less than 10 minutes left. Rolling out and under pressure, quarterback Tre Stewart (12-of-40 for 141 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs) threw a pick to safety Cole Huner.
The turnover set up Henderson’s second touchdown run, from 5-yards out with 7:08 left in the game. Down 24-14, with half a quarter left, the Cougars were down but not yet out.
This changed on their next possession, when Jevon Robertson jumped a route to take another pick from Stewart, setting Independence up just inside Centennial territory with half a quarter remaining.
After a couple of Henderson first downs, Brandon Hines, making his second start at quarterback, found Kendrell Scurry deep down the right sideline for a 27-yard touchdown.
Up 31-14 with just more than four minutes left, it was in the bag for Independence.
Scurry caught two passes for 38 yards. TJ Sheffield led Indy receiving with 66 yards on five catches. Cougar wide-receiver Tavion Fleming, who caught a touchdown with less than a minute left to play, had a game-high 76 yards on four catches.
“Obviously, our defense stepped up big-time tonight,” said Hines, who finished 14-of-34 for 165 yard, one touchdown and two interceptions. “They stood their ground and did not give up very many yards. It was up to the offense to capitalize on it. We just had to muscle through it, but it was good in the end. 2-0.”