By JOSH VARDAMAN
Independence (5-0, 2-0) vs. Stewarts Creek (4-2, 3-0), 7 p.m. Friday
Two hot teams will square off at Independence Friday in a battle of the top squads in Region 5-5A.
The Eagles hope to put another victory on their 20-game winning streak with the Stewarts Creek Red Hawks, winners of four in a row, coming to town.
Indy gets the advantage of having an extra week to prepare for the game thanks to a bye last week. Not having a game gave the Eagles a chance to rest and get healthy.
“We cut things down as far as length of time,” head coach Scott Blade said. “We gave them Friday off, did some film study early in the week and just had them focus on what we do. Gladly, I’m reporting this is the first week since we’ve been in pads that we’re about as healthy as we can be.”
The Red Hawks feature a lot of similar schemes Independence has faced this season, most notably on the offensive side of the ball.
Stewarts Creek’s wing-T offensive style matches what Indy faced two weeks ago in its 35-14 win over rival Summit in the Border Battle. In that game, the Spartans rushed for 199 yards on 50 total carries.
“The good things is it’s pretty much the same thing that Summit ran,” Blade said. “It’s not anything new the kids haven’t faced. It always is a challenge to slow down.”
Going against wing-T offenses throughout the season has been critical for the Eagles the last couple of years in postseason play. They have squared off against Hendersonville, a notorious wing-T school considered one of the state’s best offenses, the last three seasons early in the playoffs.
“These teams prepare us and make us as coaches have to change up the defense a little bit,” Blade said. “Historically, the last few years we’ve seen Hendersonville in the playoffs and they run a great wing-T, so it’s something the kids will have to draw on and have some good experience with.”
Defensively, Stewarts Creek has also shown defenses Indy is used to seeing.
Blade said the Eagles expect the Red Hawks to stack the box alongside a talented defensive line, which could create passing lanes quarterback Brandon Hines (999 pass yds, seven TDs, seven INTs) will have to take advantage of.
“It’s a similar defense that we’ve faced,” he said. “They load up the box and it will leave some things for us to take care of in the passing game. The game plan will be to try and really capitalize on some things they give us in the passing game to open up some run lanes for the offense.”
If Independence is going to push its winning streak to 21 games and end Stewarts Creek’s at four, the Eagles will have to be disciplined on defense and patient offensively.
The winner will take control of Region 5-5A and could prove to be the eventual region champion once all is said and done.