MINT HILL, NC – Independence High School held a media day event this week covering the teams in the highly competitive 4A West Conference 59 which includes the Patriots, Butler, Rocky River, Charlotte Catholic, Providence, East Mecklenburg, and Garinger.
This is a black and blue conference with many solid defensive teams, hard hitting, big lineman, explosive offenses and rivalries which always make these games interesting and exciting to watch.
We will focus on the three local teams in our area that expect to be in the mix for a conference championship. Butler has been a perennial powerhouse, but believe this year they could be challenged by Providence, Charlotte Catholic, Independence and Rocky River will all have something to say about the final outcome. These teams will collide and pound each other physically.
The Patriots led by head coach DJ McFadden now in his second season at Indy is trying to build back the winning tradition of the once annual state powerhouse winning many championships of which McFadden was part of during his high school career that led him to Division 1 football in college.
The team will have good senior leadership from players like Josh Iseah, Joe Moraglia, Zac Mangum, Raimon Garrett, Diego Barrahona, and Jaylen Springs. The team is young but has good talent and athleticism. They have speed and some size on both the offensive line and defensive line to match up against their opponents. The special team’s play will be another key factor for the Patriots to be successful.
They have a young sophomore QB in Justin Little who had an outstanding freshman season on the Junior Varsity last season with a lot of upside potential. However, he lacks extensive experience at the varsity level and he will be tested by some solid defensive teams.
In 2021 Independence had a 3-6 overall record, tied for 4th in the conference 2-4, averaged 19.0 points per game, and allowed 19.8 points per game with a differential of -0.8 points less than a point per game. If they can improve upon this factor alone they will have a winning football season. The Patriots will open up the 2022 season on August 19th against Jay M. Robinson.
The Bulldogs are the arch-rivals of the Patriots and they have dominated this conference during most of the past decade. Head Coach Brian Hales will once again field a solid football team and should be considered the favorite to win the conference championship.
They have a solid core of returning seniors Eli Sylvester, Jaylen Jones, Jadyn Coleman, Christian Hubbard, Owen Roberts, Jesus Arredondo, Devin Rivers, and Peyton Scott along with others to name a few.
They have two young capable QB’s who will compete for the starting position in Isaiah Houston and Zach Lawrence. The team is not as big as previous teams but is athletic, hard working, have good speed, strong defense and a solid commitment to maintaining their tradition of playing winning football. Never underestimate a Brian Hales coached football team.
In 2021 the Bulldogs were 7-3 overall, 6-0 in the conference, averaged 32.2 points per game, allowed just 13.6 points against their opponents, with a +18.6 point differential, and they possibly play the toughest schedule outside the conference. The Bulldogs will open their season against West Charlotte.
Rocky River Ravens:
The Rocky River Ravens have a new head football coach in Tony Fernandez. He was an assistant coach under former head coach Orlando Gray who is now the Athletic Director at the school. The new coach brings high energy and intensity into the mix and time will tell if it filters down to the players.
The team will be returning some key seniors in Antoine Norris, Aden Anderson, Trevion Graham, Jamarion Anderson, Marvin Togbe, Myles Brown, Justin Green, Reid Baker, Ja’Lon Jackson, and Elijah Nesmith.
The QB position has been a challenge for the Ravens and they are pinning their hopes on sophomore Xavier Walker who is talented and has good speed and quickness. However, untested at the varsity level. The Special teams are expected to be an improvement from 2021.
If the Ravens are to improve upon last season they will need to finish games, and don’t commit unnecessary penalties to stop drives or extend scoring opportunities for their opponents while improving offensively.
In 2021 the Ravens finished 3-7 overall, 2-4 in the conference, averaged 13.6 per game, allowed their opponents 22.5 points per game, for a -8.6 point differential. Rocky River will open up their football season against Porter Ridge on 8/19.