The allure and anticipation of this pivotal District 5-5A Division I matchup has been brewing for quite some now, and it’s finally time to find out who is the better squad.
Independence (3-2) and The Colony (4-1), two programs littered with Division I college-caliber athletes on the offensive side of the ball, face off tonight in what theoretically should decide which side will snag second place in the standings and potentially host a first-round playoff game.
The Knights snuck into the postseason a year ago as the No. 4 seed, and although reaching the big dance for the second time in program history was a feat in itself, they were plagued with taking on eventual state champion Highland Park at Highlander Stadium – a near-impossible place to escape with a win.
“It’s huge if you can get a home-field advantage,” said Kyle Story, Independence head coach. “It’s a big deal to get people to come to your place to play and not have to get out on the road.”
That will be much easier said than done against a Cougars crew that seems to be peaking over the last few weeks.
The Colony is fresh off of a 38-14 pounding over Wakeland a week ago and gave No. 1 state-ranked Lone Star all it could handle the week prior in a 41-38 defeat, which is the Cougars’ only loss of the season.
The offense is spearheaded by a trio of senior superstars – Myles Price, Keith Miller III and Christian Gonzalez – all of whom found the end zone against the Wolverines.
Price is the reigning district MVP and is often the most dangerous of the three. Story had some high praise for the Texas Tech commit, who accounted for three touchdowns and an interception in a masterful performance versus Wakeland, putting him in the same category as Lone Star’s Marvin Mims. But he also knows honing in on just Price won’t be enough to stifle The Colony’s lethal attack.
“Miller can go up and catch it on anybody and is a tough matchup, and Gonzalez is like Price and can go at anytime, too,” he said. “Their quarterback [Mikey Harrington] can run the ball really well, too. He doesn’t do it a lot, but when he does he’s very quick. It’s a lot of pressure on your defense and makes you defend the entire field.”
Despite the flawless record outside of facing Lone Star, multiple programs have come close to cracking the Cougars’ code, including playoff-hopeful Centennial early in the district slate.
The Titans’ recipe in their crushing 42-35 loss to The Colony back on Sept. 26 was predicated around taking away Price’s playmaking ability while also maintaining the time of possession as long as possible behind a potent rushing game.
It almost worked as Centennial and The Colony were deadlocked at 28 apiece early in the fourth quarter before Price finally came alive with a pair of late scores. The Titans also marched for 303 yards on the ground that night, but it wasn’t enough to tame the Cougars.
“It was definitely one of the videos that we studied, and we’re trying to emulate them in certain ways,” Story said. “I thought Centennial did a really good job of running the ball and controlling the clock. Whether it was them taking Price away or just him not being targeted many times, he didn’t get as many touches until later in the game.”
Although Independence is capable of running the rock behind junior Dwayne Orr, who has scampered for 530 yards and six touchdowns this season, the bread and butter lies in the passing game with junior quarterback Braylon Braxton and senior wide receiver Kyi’Yon Wafer.
The dynamic duo has hooked up for 17 touchdowns through just eight contests in the 2019 campaign, but will have their hands full with either Price or Gonzalez also shadowing Wafer from the cornerback position.
“I would assume that’s what they are going to do,” Story said. “We are going to stay with our offense and try to let Braxton make his reads and make good decisions depending on how they do play us. Little Elm came out last week in a totally different scheme, so we had to adjust on that. We need to make good decisions and get the ball where it needs to be.”
Kickoff between Independence and The Colony is set for 7 p.m. tonight at Tommy Briggs Stadium.