By SAM McGAW | Photos by KINDELL MOORE
Independence nearly gave away its season in the Class 5A quarterfinals Friday.
After leading 49-19 early in the fourth quarter at Cane Ridge, the defending state champion Eagles needed two late defensive stands to escape with a 49-46 win.
“We had the game in-hand in the third quarter, but we let a good team get back in the game,” Independence head coach Scott Blade said. “I’m proud of our boys for finding a way to win at the end. I’m glad we get out of this with a win, and I’m happy we get to play one more week.”
Cane Ridge (12-1) rattled off 27 unanswered points and recovered an onside kick for an opportunity to either tie the game or take the lead with 2:36 left.
However, after being dominated for the entire fourth quarter, Independence’s defense stepped up with two consecutive sacks and an interception by Cole Huner.
“We didn’t execute well on defense,” Blade stated. “We didn’t tackle as well as we’d like and, obviously, we gave up some passes. But Cane Ridge is a terrific team. We had them down and we couldn’t put them away.”
After getting the ball back with six seconds left, Cane Ridge quarterback D.J. Thorpe had his Hail Mary attempt from his team’s 40-yard line knocked down to end the game.
Independence rides a 28-game winning streak into next week’s semifinal matchup at Brentwood. It defeated the Bruins 21-20 in the first week of the season.
Independence quarterback Brandon Hines recorded 354 passing yards, six touchdowns (1 run) and two interceptions.
Wide receiver Kendrell Scurry caught four passes for 183 yards and three touchdowns.
TJ Sheffield posted added 44 receiving yards, 12 rushing yards and a score, while Landon Guidry tallied three catches for 79 yards and a touchdown.
“Having those guys takes a lot of pressure off of my shoulders,” Hines said. “They help me out a lot, especially with the great offensive linemen we have. With them out there, all I have to do is put the ball in their hands. I just have to get them the ball and they’ll make plays happen.”
Hines had one of his passes touch two pairs of hands for a touchdown. On the first play of the second half, the senior threw a dart over the middle that ricocheted off of Sheffield’s hands and into Scurry’s, who then dashed to the end zone for a 78-yard touchdown and 35-19 lead.
The duo added a 32-yard touchdown connection with 5:37 left in the third quarter.
Running back Troy Henderson pushed the Eagles ahead 49-19 with a 2-yard touchdown run with 2:09 remaining in the third frame.
Cane Ridge quarterback D.J. Thorpe tossed two touchdown passes in the final 9:56. A 50-yard yard interception returned for a touchdown by James Reese IV and a 2-yard touchdown run cut the Ravens’ deficit to three points.
“We knew Cane Ridge had come back from a 21-0 deficit against Summit, so we tried to keep our foot on the gas pedal,” Independence linebacker Hunter Dupree said. “Credit to them; they have a lot of athletes and they made us miss, a lot. But we did just enough to win.”