Coach: Mike Natoli, second season at Independence (19-48 overall)
2017 Record: 2-9, 1-6 Southwestern 4A
Returning Starters: Offense, 2: Defense, 1
Independence will be young and lack varsity experience at key positions, but second-year coach Mike Natoli is optimistic about the upcoming season.
“Year two is much easier and we are able to do the things we want to do on both sides of the football,” Natoli said. “We spent a lot of time in the offseason focusing on character and discipline, working on our culture. Our kids have really bought into that culture and that just makes everything else run smoother.”
Senior Luke McPhail (6-foot-4, 205 pounds) is expected to start at quarterback. He is a pocket passer with a strong arm.
Independence will have a talented corps of wide receivers in Brian Morgan, Trevor Bryan and Shai Wheeler to throw to. That could open up the Patriots’ running attack, where senior Amarray Green will shoulder much of the load.
Last year’s junior varsity offensive line will step into starting roles this season.
There will be a lot of new faces on defense for the Patriots and several underclassmen could be in starting roles.
Sophomore RJ Spivey and senior TJ James are expected to help out on the defensive line. Senior defensive back Zach Repak and linebacker Taejuan Smith will also be counted on.
“Our DB’s are athletic and physical,” Natoli said. “Our linebackers are physical and our D-line, we are shuffling some guys around a little bit. But our whole team is a little bit undersized, but they are really good kids that are working really hard. We are excited to see what they can do.”
Natoli said special teams is still a work in progress with several players competing for roles in the the return and kicking games.