Ethan Cash and T.J. Sheffield hooked up for three touchdowns, as the Eagles pulled a seeding upset at Smyrna, 33-14, on Friday night.
Cash completed 17 of 31 throws for 284 yards and four touchdowns, and also ran 11 times for 46 yards. Sheffield hauled in nine balls for 176 yards.
Independence (6-5) led by 17 at half, and cruised into a the second round of the TSSAA playoffs, where it will travel to Brentwood (9-2). IHS upset Brentwood, 42-31, on Sept. 28.
The resurgent Eagles out-gained 7-4 Smyrna, 414-329. They’ve won five of their last seven.
Cash found wide receiver Sheffield with a 64-yard pass just 1:33 into the night, with Weston Landry’s point-after giving Independence a 7-0 advantage.
Then, Cash hit receiver Chayce Bishop (four catches, 71 yards) with a 40-yard pass to get the Eagles into scoring position. Landry bounced a 39-yard field goal off the crossbar and through the uprights, giving the Eagles a 10-7 lead with 52 seconds left in the first quarter.
Cash connected with Isaiah Collier on a 35-yard touchdown pass, then found Sheffield for a 34-yard scoring strike, and the Eagles led 24-7 at the break.
The Independence defense, which struggled at times this year, held Smyrna to 132 first-half yards.
“We changed up a little bit of the personnel, but they’ve just been tackling better and running to the ball better,” Independence coach Scott Blade said. “The defense played a pretty good first half.”
Independence defensive back Jake Huner started the second half by picking off an Alex Bannister pass. Moments later, Cash found Sheffield along the left sideline, where the Purdue commit slipped a couple of tackles and dove into the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown.
That was his third score of the night, and his 15th receiving touchdown of the season, and it put the Eagles up 24 with 3:27 left in the third quarter.
Smyrna countered with a third-quarter touchdown on a 5-yard run by Mikel Hartfield. But a safety on a bad snap through the end zone with 6:51 left accounted for the evening’s final points, as Bannister kicked the ball out of the end zone rather than give up a touchdown.
Smyrna’s versatile star Blake Watkins saw his high school career come to an end. He left briefly early in the fourth quarter with an apparent leg injury, but returned to intercept a pass.
Watkins ran 22 times for 164 yards. Bannister was 18 of 32 for 109 yards, an interception and a touchdown, which went to Brady Collins in the first quarter.