By: David Wells
First-year Independence head coach Scott Blade has a reputation for building championship-caliber teams.
In 2005, he led a California high school team to a state championship. In 2008, he did it again, only this time it was in Middle Tennessee with Hillsboro High School.
Blade then moved to East Tennessee in 2009 and took traditional powerhouse Oak Ridge High School from a 4-6 season the year before to a 10-2 record last year.
With the departure of former coach and Tennessee Titans wideout Kevin Dyson, Eagles fans are hoping Blade will repeat history at Independence, beginning Friday night when the Eagles travel to Kenwood.
Despite a positive camp and a good final scrimmage Aug. 15 against Tullahoma High School, Blade said that the Eagles have a long way to go before they can start thinking about a state championship.
“We’ve got a new coaching staff, new system, new terminology,” he said. “We’re just trying to get everybody on board as far as that is concerned. We’re not where we want to be just yet, but we’re moving in the right direction.”
That’s a positive assessment for a young team that Blade said will likely start multiple underclassmen.
Blade said he was most pleased with the throwing game, particularly with Division I commits Wharton III and Finis Stribling, alongside senior quarterback Caleb Hollis and junior running back Dominic Childress, all of whom will anchor the Eagle offense along side a deep receiver corps.
Where the Eagles are likely to struggle, however, is on the line. Only one starting lineman, left tackle Stephen Satchell, returns on either side of the ball.
Still, Blade is encouraged by offensive and defensive line’s improvement over the course of camp.
“For the area that needs to improve the most—and it will—we did a lot of good things last night against a well-coached Tullahoma team,” he said.
Like Independence, Kenwood has a new head coach in Brain Beaubien, who went 6-14 in his previous tenure at Covington, although Beaubien has only had two years of head coaching experience.
Kickoff for Friday night’s game is at 7:30 p.m.