THOMPSON’S STATION — Independence averaged better than 42 points in an unbeaten run to the Class 5A state championship last season.
However, the Eagle defense lived up to its end of the bargain as well, allowing 11.4 points per game. And it could be the team’s strength in 2016.
“We knew a lot of people didn’t think about us,” Independence senior linebacker Hunter Dupree said. “When we played people, we just popped out of nowhere. We prided ourselves on people not thinking we were very good and just popping people in the mouth.”
Despite being undersized up front in an effort to maximize their quickness, the Eagles allowed 20 points just once, which came in a 28-20 win over Hillsboro in the quarterfinals.
“We play fast as a defense,” senior defensive back Landon Guidry said. “It doesn’t matter how big a team is. We are faster, especially up front. Speed kills. We take pride in that for sure.”
The defense — consisting of a 4-3 front — had 44 sacks, 94 hurries and 36 takeaways (including 23 interceptions).
Guidry and Dupree are two of seven starters returning on defense.
“I couldn’t be more confident about our defense,” said Guidry, a Mississippi State commitment.
Dupree added, “We are definitely real comfortable. We are trying to play for each other. Once we get that 100-percent (accomplished), we’ll start working together and dominating.”
The Eagles held all of their 2015 opponents to less than their scoring average.
“It was overshadowed,” Independence coach Scott Blade said.
“It was the perfect combination. Because of our ability to score so fast, it put other teams doing what they don’t want to do … (trying to answer) so fast. Those things work together. The offense complements the defense and vice versa. It’s the perfect storm of team football. We have to get back to that.”
Guidry added, “We know we have a big target on our back. They want to beat the No. 1 team. We have to have a chip on our shoulder and keep doing what we’re doing.”
Reach Craig Harris at 615-259-8238 and on Twitter @CHTennessean.
Independence’s returning senior defensive starters
- DE David Demke (75 tackles, 10 quarterback sacks, 7 tackles for a loss, 3 forced fumbles)
- LB Hunter Dupree (118 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, 5 interceptions)
- DB Landon Guidry (80 tackles, 8 tackles for a loss)
- DB Cole Huner (51 tackles, 7 interceptions, 12 pass deflections)
- NG Michael Pierce (72 total tackles, 15 tackles for a loss)
- DB Montray Steele (25 tackles)
- DB Alan Watson (39 tackles)