A year ago, El Dorado used a furious goal-line stand to hold on for an 18-16 season-opening victory over Independence.
This year, Independence flipped the script.
El Dorado had taken a 20-19 lead with just 46 seconds to play on a 7-yard Jaydon Sundgren sweep into the end zone. Zach Wittenberg’s two-point conversion vaulted the Wildcats into the lead.
But, as it turned out, too much time was left. Independence used some deft passing to march 63 yards, scoring with just nine seconds remaining and spoiling El Dorado’s 2020 debut, 25-20, at BG Products Stadium.
After a lackluster first half, El Dorado’s offense came alive after halftime, posting touchdowns in both quarters and seemingly headed for victory.
But time – which had to be announced by the referee because the scoreboard didn’t work – couldn’t pass quickly enough for El Dorado.
Independence quarterback Easton Ewing found Cooper Smith for a 25-yard score for his second TD pass of the game. Before the final drive, Ewing had failed to complete any of his six pass attempts in the second half.
"Last year, it came down to a goal-line stand," Wildcats coach Wes Bell said. "We got them to a fourth-and-1, and coach (John) Black decided to go for it instead of kick a field goal. He had a freshman kicker at the time, so I probably would have done the same thing. We managed to stop them.
"This year, I don’t know that we could get out of our own way in the first half, gave them a couple of touchdowns. We did a good job in the second half battling back, made some adjustments. We scored when there was 46 seconds left. But hats off to them, in ‘crunch time’ they stepped up and we did not."
The Bulldogs (1-0) scored first on a 14-yard run by Braden Brimm. But El Dorado countered in the second quarter, pulling to within 7-6 on sophomore Drew Veatch’s 62-yard run. Veatch led El Dorado (0-1) with 121 yards on six carries. But Independence battled back on a 41-yard scoring pass from Ewing to Hayden Smith, and took a 19-7 halftime lead by recovering an El Dorado fumble in the end zone.
El Dorado inched closer after halftime when sophomores Gannon White and Barry Summers teamed up on a 28-yard score. On the final drive, Sundgren also had a 19-yard gain, and senior Zach Wittenberg had 17 of his 58 yards for the game.
"We moved the ball well in the second half," Bell said. "(But) in the big moments, we didn’t make the plays we needed to make."
El Dorado will travel to archrival Augusta next Friday.
Independence 7;12;0;6 – 25
El Dorado 0;6;6;8 – 20
I – Brimm 14 run (Merrick kick)
E – Veatch 62 run (pass failed)
I – H. Smith 41 pass from Ewing (kick failed)
I – Schrant recovered fumble in end zone (kick blocked)
E – Summers 28 pass from White (run failed)
E – Sundgren 7 run (Z. Wittenberg run)
I – C. Smith 25 pass from Ewing (pass failed)
Rushing — IHS: Wilson 6-29, Brimm 6-21, Ewing 3-21, Wright 5-6; EHS: Veatch 5-105, Sundgren 10-77, Wittenberg 18-52, White 9-41, Rice 4-8.
Passing — IHS: Ewing 6-13-1 125; EHS: White 2-6-0 38.
Receiving — IHS: H. Smith 3-100, Decker 2-15, Brimm 1-10; EHS: Summers 1-29, Wittenberg 1-9.