Blade, Independence Look for a Better 2018

Independence linemen chat with an Eagles' assistant during a scrimmage win over LaVergne.

Independence comes off a disappointing 6-6, but coach Scott Blade’s squad looks poised for better things in 2018. Here’s a preview of the Eagles for 2018.

Sheffield leads powerful Eagle offense

In last week’s two-quarter scrimmage demolition of LaVergne, senior receiver T.J. Sheffield was in dominant form. He scored a pair of touchdowns, one, a 65-yarder. The Purdue commitment looks primed to improve on his 56-catch, 840-yard 2017 season.

With Kendrell Scurry gone, receiver Isaiah Collier should have a bigger role. Independence will be better for it. The diminutive senior is shifty and elusive in the open field. He, too, had a score in the win over LaVergne. 

“It all starts with those [Sheffield and Collier],” Blade said after the scrimmage. “With Isaiah, we can play them anywhere and tonight, we just left him inside and that was fine. We can create some mismatches outside against some teams as well, and at running back.”

Senior Jax Wiggins also had a touchdown in the scrimmage, and could be a factor.

Quarterback Nathan Cisco looked great in the scrimmage, and showed the ability to consistently connect downfield. He looked like a better version than the guy who threw 19 interceptions a year ago.

“We’re pleased with his effort,” Blade said. “He’s gotten bigger and stronger. He’s getting better each week.”

Independence must replace star runner Troy Henderson, who ended 2017 with a flourish before signing with Liberty University. Blade said he’ll go with a committee of Kolby Logan, Tyrus Jackson and Jack Phillips to replace him.

The Eagles will operate behind a massive offensive line that includes 300-pounders Dalon Davis and returning starter Jeff Katina, plus, another returning starter in Carter Runnion.

Kicker Weston Landry connected on all 39 point-after tries last season. 

Looking for defensive improvement

As potent as its offense is, Independence doesn’t need a lock-down defense. However, the Eagles would like to improve on last year, when they gave up 21 points or more in 10 of 12 contests, and 31 or more five times.

Blade plans to play his running backs two plays at a time before substituting, because they’re starters on his defense. Logan will play safety, with Jackson and Phillips at linebacker. 

Defensive back Jake Huner is the defender Blade raves about the most. He mentions Huner and the aforementioned three as the foundation of the Eagles defense.

“Jake Huner is a three-year starter for us and the leader of the defense,” Blade said. “He’s smart, cerebral, good instincts, a sure tackler, and a ton of experience, 27 games playing.”

Blade is pleased with the progress of corners Caedon Williams, a junior, and senior Alex Becker. Senior defensive end Drew Cannon is the Eagles’ leader up front.