The Independence Eagles are in a good position to have a chance at the playoffs under first year head coach Scott Stidham, who is taking over the position previously held by Scott Blade.
Stidham was formerly the head coach at South Gibson High School in Milan, Tenn.
“I know there is a lot of good football here,” said Stidham. “There are six great football teams in this region. Our goal is try to make the top four, so we can make the playoffs.”
Independence made the playoffs last season, but fell to Collierville in the first round.
The Eagles are looking to replace key playmakers on offense and defense. Graduated starting quarterback Joseph Cummings had a 54% completion percentage and 26 passing touchdowns. Jack Rummell led Independence in receiving yards with 120.4 per game and had 15 touchdowns as a wide receiver.
Independence will replace a threat on both sides of the ball in River Katina. Katina had eight receiving touchdowns and 68.5 yards per game. He also recorded two interceptions at defensive back.
Independence has several returning playmakers on offense including senior running back and linebacker Tre’ Hartwell and Alabama commit and senior tight end Ty Lockwood.
“We ran the triple option at South Gibson because it fit our personnel,” said Stidham. “We are not running that here. Number one, if you’ve got a tight end like that (Lockwood), you have got to get him the ball. Our offensive coordinator likes to move our playmakers around, so Tre, Ty, and all of our wide receivers will line up different places.
"We feel like we can put five guys out there, whether it is a running back or whatever our personnel is, they can all do great things with the ball in their hand.”
A name to keep an eye on in the defensive backfield is junior defensive back Brayden Needham. For the Eagles, Needham totaled six tackles per game last year.
There will be a quarterback battle at Independence between senior Brooks Sapone and three juniors Peyton Kirton, Cody Pagach, and Mason McLarty.
Independence will open the season on the road against Division II-AA state runner-up Christ Presbyterian Academy.
“I think it is a good wake-up call for us and a good challenge on how it will be throughout the season,” said Hartwell. “If we compete with them, we will compete with everybody.”
“I think, to be the best, you have to beat the best teams,” said Independence senior offensive lineman Ben Miller. “We are excited to matchup against good teams throughout the year, including CPA.”
“Coach (Ingle) Martin and I have communicated quite a bit already for the last few years,” said Stidham. “He is a great football coach. The chance to play great programs is what we are here for. We are going to play good people every Friday night, so we might as well start off with a great one.”