STORY BY JAKE DONOVAN | PHOTOS BY ANDY COLLIGNON
Brentwood High School couldn’t have picked a more appropriate setting to avenge their lone district loss of the season.
Overcoming a late rally and an early overtime deficit, the Bruins outlasted Independence High School (6-6) in a 27-24 double overtime thriller Friday evening at their home campus.
Sophomore quarterback Cade Granzow (182 passing yards, 82 rushing yards) followed up Home Page Player of the Week honors by scoring all three touchdowns for Brentwood (10-2), including a 10-yard score in response to Eagles QB Ethan Cash scoring on the first play in overtime.
A chip shot field goal by Bruins kicker Tabor Miller—who also had a 36-yard field goal earlier in the game—gave Brentwood the lead, which they preserved with a clean strip of Cash (245 passing yards, 2 TD passes; 50 rushing yards, 1 rush TD) on the final play of the game.
Senior linebacker James Scott dove to the ground to smother the loose ball and advance Brentwood to the quarterfinals in the Division I-6A playoffs, where they will host crosstown rival Ravenwood High School.
“We beat Ravenwood in a heck of a game way back in September, but also lost a heck of a game to this Independence team right around that same time of the season,” Brentwood head coach Ron Crawford noted after Friday’s thriller. “We fully expect another great ball game out of Ravenwood next Friday.”
The Bruins had a heck of a game on their hands Friday, one that saw a reversal of regular season trends. Short touchdown runs by Granzow—both of which were set up by long pass plays—provided Brentwood with a 17-7 lead at halftime, with their defense shutting down the Eagles’ high-flying offense.
“We had the lead at halftime, which was good but also a weird feeling; we’ve only experienced that four times this year,” quipped Crawford, in his fourth year of his second tour as Brentwood’s head coach. “We executed plays well, but we knew at halftime that the game wasn’t over. They would not roll over; they’re too explosive on offense with too many weapons.”
The strong combination of Cash and nationally regarded senior wideout TJ Sheffield (4 receptions, 112 yards, 1 TD) has been enough to strike fear in the hearts of many opposing defenses all season long. The two struck again tonight, putting the Eagles on the board in the second quarter when Cash connected with Sheffield on a 77-yard catch and sprint to the house.
“It was nice, Cash put the ball right where I needed to grab it and it was open field from there,” humbly stated Sheffield, who is committed to play at Purdue University next fall.
The all-star receiver came right back on the Eagles’ next possession, scrambling through heavy punt return coverage for a 71-yard score that was ultimately called back for holding.
“It was frustrating but I just had to shake it off and go to the next play,” Sheffield noted.
The Eagles attempted to make a drive out of it, eating up clock in marching down the field while trailing 17-7. It ended in frustration, as Cash threw an errant pass into the awaiting arms of Bruins linebacker Xiere Howard at midfield.
“I was too impatient throughout the first half and it showed on the scoreboard,” Cash suggested of his early performance.
Brentwood made the Eagles pay in a hurry. Granzow connected with Avery Williams on a 39-yard strike to put the Bruins in the red zone. Two plays later, Granzow raced in from four yards for his second score of the night and giving the Bruins a 10-point lead.
The Eagles defense held the Bruins scoreless in the final 24 minutes of regulation but their own high-flying offense struggled to make a dent. A third quarter field goal brought Independence within a touchdown’s distance, but the team let several opportunities slip away to where the clock appeared to wind down on their season.
A last gasp chance came for the Eagles after stopping the Bruins on a crucial fourth down with 3:34 to go in the fourth quarter.
“We were up 17-10, with 4th and 1. I felt good about it, running with our heavy set,” Crawford recalled of the play selection. “When you don’t get it, the first thing that hits you – I messed it up for our kids.”
Independence changed up their offensive attack on their final drive in regulation. Sheffield went wide left, drawing the attention of the Bruins defense to where Cash found a mismatch on the opposite side of the field. Michal Theisen came down with his only catch of the night, making it count as he took it 30 yards to the end zone to provide a 17-17 tie.
Cash scored on the first play in overtime—with each team beginning their possession at their opponent’s 10 yard line as per high school overtime rules—giving the Eagles 14 points in a span of two offensive plays and less than 40 seconds of game time. The late surge gave the Eagles their first and only lead of the night, going up 24-17 before Granzow responded one play later for his third touchdown of the game.
“That overtime touchdown is the one I’ll remember the most,” Granzow confessed. “Cash ran one in, so we took the field and I was confident it was my turn to run one in.”
The Bruins settled for a field goal in the second overtime, relying on their defense to come up with one last stop. Cash did his best to wear down Brentwood’s defenders, moving the ball halfway to the goal line on the first play and then appearing to do more of the same on the next play. His aggression was meant as a shadow, intending to push back the Bruins’ middle defenders in freeing up space for a pitch to Isiah Collier.
It didn’t quite work out that way.
“It was a speed option with Isiah running behind me,” Cash explained. “I was supposed to attack the first defender which I did. But as I was pitching it, the defender got a hand in there and I just lost the ball.”
The loose football laid on the field for barely a second before Scott dove to the ground to recover, before immediately jumping to his feet to begin the celebration.
“This was amazing, going through adversity to win,” said an otherwise speechless Scott. “I saw it and just pounced on it. I’m just really at a loss for words right now!”
It will take a similar fight to survive next week versus a familiar Ravenwood team (now 10-2) who knows a thing or two about adversity. The Raptors trailed for most of the night in a road playoff game versus previously unbeaten Cane Ridge, rallying from a 16-point deficit to prevail 43-36 in advancing to the quarterfinals.
“I knew that our team was much different than the ones who lost to Independence earlier this year; I don’t expect to face the same Ravenwood team we beat in September,” admitted Crawford. “We’re looking forward to a great game with our friends from the other side of town next Friday.”