The Patriots continue to have their challenges to overcome. This is a young undersized football team who will lack varsity experience, however, they do have some talented position players.
Head Coach Mike Natoli who is in his second season with the Patriots has had to overcome many obstacles since his arrival on campus. It takes time to develop a new program and to get everyone to buy into what needs to be accomplished. To set a new mindset, to establish a positive mental and winning attitude among the players. To get these athletes to fully buy into a new culture and system.
Independence has a long and proud tradition of winning football, therefore, after last seasons 2-9 overall results, this team needs to be looking to win more games. The Patriots only have one defensive and two offensive starters returning. The group will be made up of largely a very successful junior varsity club from last season.
Senior Luke McPhail (6’4,” 205 pounds) is expected to be the starting quarterback. He is a pocket passer with a strong and accurate arm. The wide receivers will be Brian Morgan, Trevor Bryan and Shai Wheeler. The ground game will be led by senior Amarray Green who is expected to carry the heavy load for the Patriots. Also, senior Antwan Watson could make a positive impact in the rushing game. The offensive line will be young, all from the junior varsity team. They will be battle tested by bigger and more experienced defensive opponents in the Southwestern 4A conference.
The defense will lack varsity experience. They will certainly have to stick their shoulder pads into offensive players to be successful. Many will be underclassmen, so they are undersized and may not match up against some bigger offensive lines. Arm tackling will not work at the varsity level, so they will need to learn to stick their opponents. The two seniors who are expected to lead the defense are TJ James on the defensive line and Zack Repak a returning starter in the defensive backfield. Taejuan Smith and sophomore RJ Spivey are expected to make a significant contribution.
This aspect of the game may be a concern for the coaching staff. They appear to be trying to find the right combination of players to fill this important role in both the return and kicking games. Reliability and consistency on making PAT’s and field goals could become another challenge entering the season.
Finally, with the tragic loss of junior quarterback Davyne Simpson, this season could be dedicated to honor this young man’s life which may become an inspirational and motivational factor. The coaches have spent a lot of time on building character, discipline and instituting a new positive can do culture. The players appear to have bought into this philosophy, so it should make things run more smoothly. No matter the final outcome, these Patriots won’t quit and will compete.