Clarksville, TN – The stands on both side of the football field at Rossview High School were filled with chilly fans as the Hawks hosted their first playoff game against the Independence Eagles Friday night.
Both teams made multiple mistakes and multiple big plays in an exciting, back-and-forth game, but it was the Eagles who flew away with the win at the end of the night, 35-25.
“It always feels good to win,“ Eagles head coach Scott Blade said. “We played a great team tonight, that was 9-1, really just been unstoppable all year. We knew we were going to face a buzz saw here tonight. I was happy that our kids overcame so much. We turned the ball over, we were careless with the ball at times and still were able to come out with the victory and that’s huge.”
The game was a showdown between the Hawks seemingly unstoppable running game and the Eagles potent passing game.
The turning point of the game came early in the fourth quarter.
The Hawks failed to take advantage of an Eagles turnover and punted with a 23-21 lead. On the second play of the Eagles ensuing offensive drive, Sophomore quarterback Andrew Bunch threw a screen pass to RaShaan Gaulden who streaked down the sideline 80 yards for a touchdown.
Senior Vic Wharton III was involved in almost every Eagles big play of the game including their last touchdown that expanded the lead to 12 points with less than four minutes remaining in the game.
The Hawks were still down by only five points, 28-23, when the Eagles had 2nd and 12 on the Hawks 37- yard line. Bunch took the snap, then tossed the ball to Wharton in the backfield who then, threw a bomb to Gaulden for his second touchdown reception.
The Hawks had 3:49 left in the game when they took over on offense, trying to close the 12-point deficit. However, on the fourth play of the drive, Wharton intercepted a pass intended for the end zone.
“We played hard, but we made way too many mistakes to be successful,“ Hawks head coach Ron Lambert said. “That is a good football team and when you make those type of mistakes, great teams with great players, they take advantage of it. That is what they did.”
The last interception was Hawks quarterback Charles Talleyrand‘s second of the game. Wharton made both interceptions. Talleyrand completed 4 of 10 passes for 37 yards. He also rushed for 68 yards and a touchdown.
The Hawks won the turnover battle, making 3 to the Eagles 5. However, the Hawks turnovers resulted in more points for the Eagles.
Bunch completed 11 of 20 passes for 221 yards, 3 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.
Junior Hawk Isaiah Johnson had another impressive rushing game, adding to an already monster season. He finished the game with 219 rushing yards, one touchdown and a fumble.
Johnson’s fumble came in the third quarter on the 1-yard line as he was fighting to get into the end zone. He lost the ball and Wharton recovered it. Wharton then dashed 99 yards for a touchdown, giving the Eagles a 21-16 lead.
In addition to his interceptions, touchdown pass and run, Wharton had his own fumble at the goal line late in the third quarter. He was also tackled for a safety on a kick return in the first half.
The game was a roller coaster for all the Eagles, but they held on for the win.
“We are going to learn from it,“ Blade said. “We are going to keep learning from our mistakes, try and get better, correct them and see if we can keep this thing going.”