Keion Stafford breaks loose on his touchdown run.

An explosive start by the Hendersonville Commandos fizzled in the second half as they dropped a non-region game at home to the Independence Eagles 31-24.

The Commandos were outscored 17-0 in the second half, surrendering the 10-point lead they held at halftime.

In second half, “We didn’t execute the way we needed,” said Hendersonville Coach James Beasley. “We need to get the team to play both halves like we did the first half.”

Hendersonville started the game with a blast on a 95-yard touchdown run by Issiah Chandler. On the Commandos second play from scrimmage, Chandler took the ball on a sweep around the left end, appeared surrounded by Independence defenders, but squirted free and headed down the sideline to the end zone.

On the second play of the Commandos’ next possession, it was Keion Stafford’s turn. He burst through the middle for a 61-yard touchdown run to give Hendersonville a 14-0 lead with 5:03 left in the first quarter. 

The Eagles cut the lead in half on an 11-yard run by Ethan Pickering to go into the second quarter down 14-7.

The Commandos answered with a 7-yard touchdown pass from Drew Hohenbrink to Will Batson to give Hendersonville a 21-7 lead.

Aided by a pair of pass interference penalties on Hendersonville, Independence scored on a 4-yard run by Jack Phillips.

“We’ve got to eliminate our penalties,” said Beasley, noting that penalties have contributed to the last three losses for the Commandos.

Hendersonville finished with nine penalties for 95 yards. Five of the penalties gave Independence a first down.

Independence had one more chance to score in the first half, but an interception by Hendersonville’s Cody Booker on a tipped pass gave the Commandos the ball at the Eagles’ 18-yard line with 1:43 left in the half. 

The Eagles defense stiffened and Andrew Martin kicked a 25-yard field goal to give Hendersonville a 24-14 lead at halftime.

Independence scored twice in the third quarter on a 21-yard pass from Ethan Cash to Jaxson Campbell and a 13-yard run by Phillips to give the Eagles a 28-24 lead.

After sacking Hohenbrink for an 8-yard loss on fourth and 8 from the Independence 33-yard line, the Eagles drove for a 24-yard field goal by Sam Henke to push their lead to 31-24. The drive was aided by a late hit penalty on Hendersonville on a play that the Commandos defense had dropped the Independence running back for a 4-yard loss.

Hohenbrink’s heave on the last play of the game was knocked away by a host of Independence defenders to seal the win for the Eagles, their fifth in a row, pushing their record to 5-1.

“We knew we were going to bend some with as explosive as they are on offense,” Beasley said. The Commandos wanted to control the ball to keep the Independence offense off the field, he said.

The plan worked in the first half, but in the second Independence made some adjustments on defense and Hendersonville’s penalties aided the Eagles’ comeback, Beasley said. 

Cash led Independence with 148 yards on 14 of 23 passing with one touchdown and one interception. He also ran for 64 yards. Phillips rushed for two touchdowns for Independence.

Chandler led Hendersonville with 109 yards rushing on six carries, and Stafford added 82 yards on 10 carries. As a team, Hendersonville rushed for 332 yards and passed for 32. Independence rushed for 157 and passed for 148.

The loss dropped Hendersonville’s record to 2-4 overall and 1-1 in Region 4-6A.

There is still time for the Commandos to advance in the region standings, Beasley said. “The region is right there. We’ve got to get ready for Wilson Central next week and that’s a region game,” he said

Hendersonville will host Wilson Central on Friday for Homecoming. The Wildcats’ record is 4-2 and 1-1 in the region. 


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