Independence head coach Bill Geiler addresses his team at the end of practice. He stressed the importance of the scrimmage at Rocky River High School Friday at 6 pm. The Patriots will also hold its second annual Green and Gold scrimmage at the school Saturday at 9 am. PHOTOS BY FRANK SMITHWICK

Independence head football coach Bill Geiler sounds like a lot of coaches when he says, “the goal is to win a state championship.”
In order for his Patriots to get back to the State Championship they must “get better everyday and improve on last year’s 8-3 season,” says Geiler.
Hopefully, he is right and can lead them to a state championship because this will be Geiler’s last season as coach of the Independence Patriots.
This year the team is young and includes several players from a very successful last year JV team. Three returners on offense and three returners on defense help balance out the young squad.
“One of the differences from this year’s team and last year’s team is that they are bigger, faster, stronger and have more experience.”
As a head coach, he holds a career record of 26-22 and 26-11 at Independence.    Geiler has coached football for 35 years.  All but one of those years has been in Charlotte.  Some of the things that have kept Geiler in the game so long are his core beliefs as a coach.  He feels he missed a lot time with his own children as they were growing up, but now he does not hesitate to leave the field if his family needs him.  Family comes first.  Geiler has assembled a strong staff at Indy that allows him to put his family before the Friday night lights if needed.
The increase in strength is due to a year-round lifting program strength coach Hal Brown put together. Brown will coach the offensive line in addition to his weight room duties.  Brown as been at Independence since 2000. He has not missed any team function and was there during the 109 win streak.
Joe Evans is in his third year and is calling the shots as offensive coordinator.
Jeremy Johnson, is in his fourth year, and is doing what a lot of coaches do—volunteer his time, as Running Backs coach.
Jeff Jarosz is coaching the defensive backs and met Geiler while he was at Providence Day.  Clarence Bates is coaching up this year’s linebacker core and will also be the defensive coordinator on JV.
Colin Reese, who played for Indy in the 90s, will help coach the wide receivers.
Rounding out his staff is Josh Kranish, who will coach the defensive line, also heads up video work and recruiting—helping players get a chance to play in college.
One of the biggest joys of coaching for Geiler are when the kids understand and the light bulb goes off, he says. Geiler is tough on his players but “hopes they remember that family comes first and he is remembered for always doing the right thing and holding his players to that standard.”  With about a week into practice, Geiler feels “the defense is playing strong and ahead of the offense at this point.”

Role reversal at Independence
Last year, Jason Connella was catching passes and was all conference as a tight end.  This year as a senior, he hopes to have the same success calling the plays and throwing touchdown passes as the starting quaterback. He hopes to connect with his favorite target senior wide reciever(#11) Dequan Barnes on Friday night. Barnes earned all-conference honors last year as a wide receiver.
Junior Isaih Robinson(#42) gets the nod at running back and hopes to eat up yards on the field and time on the clock for Geiler as he will be the go-to-guy coming out of the backfield.
The defense is a strong unit made up of four impact players, including three seniors.

QB Jason Connella (front) with his teammates on defense Demtree Hardinson(#74), Josh Walker(#95) and Jack Tocho(#29).

The linebacker trio will consist of Chris Turbin(#52) and seniors Josh Walker (#95) and Demetree Hardinson(#74).  Hardinson is also a standout on the Independence wrestling team and was a state qualifier at heavyweight.
Senior Jack Tocho will help shutdown any activity in the secondary as a defensive back.  He has committed to play at NC State next year.
Another player making a switch this year is Tony Adams(#70).  Last year as a sophomore he was all-conference at defensive tackle, but will be on the other side of the ball this year as an offensive Tackle.  He has recieved a lot of interest from colleges but is keeping his list under wrap and focusing on leading the Patriots back to another state championship.

Coming up
Independence will take some of its more experienced players to scrimmage at Rocky River High School Friday at 6 pm. The team will host its second annual Green and Gold scrimmage Saturday at 9 am. The first opponent for the Big I is Hough High School August 17 at Independence. Kickoff will be at 7pm.