Independence lost three football players to the Southeastern Conference, but second-year coach Scott Blade is still optimistic about this season.
Rashaan Gaulden and Vic Wharton are now playing at Tennessee and Finis Stribling is at Missouri.
“It’s always a challenge to lose such a talented group of seniors – they’ll be missed – but our kids have responded really well and have taken on the challenge,” Blade said. “I’ve been really pleased with how far they’ve come and I look forward to watching them grow as players.”
Senior Dom Childress is a name to remember at running back.
“He’s had a great summer and great scrimmages,” Blade said. “There’s a chance that the colleges like him. Navy has all but offered him. He’s been to their camp.”
East Tennessee State and Tennessee Tech have also showed interest in him. Childress (5-11, 174) missed most of last season after breaking his arm in the second quarter of the first game against Kenwood.
He’s got speed to burn – he finished second in the Class AAA 100-meter dash with a time of 10.68 seconds last spring.
“He’ll hit you, for sure,” Blade said. “Strong kid, physical kid, but most definitely his biggest strength is he’s going to outrun most people. When he catches a crease, look out.”
Nine sophomores started and 17 played regularly last year, so they return with a lot of experience as juniors.
“We might be under the radar a little bit, but that’s OK,” Blade said. “We like our team and look forward to getting this thing started.”
Independence hosts Kenwood in Friday’s opener. The Eagles’ defense faces a difficult task in trying to contain Knights quarterback Malcom Perry, an explosive runner who has 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash. The senior was the District 10-AAA offensive player of the year in 2013.
“They return a three-year starter at quarterback,” Blade said. “He has the ability to make something happen on his own. He’s really good as far as making people miss and outrunning you, and getting first downs. He’s for sure their biggest playmaker.”
Independence is coming off a 9-4 season that ended in the Class 6A quarterfinals. Kenwood went 5-6 last year, falling to Henry County in the first round of the 5A playoffs.e’s really good as far as making people missHe’s really good.