STORY BY KEVIN WARNER | PHOTO BY ANDY COLLIGNON
Seventh-year head coach Scott Blade and the Independence Eagles took a more introspective look at themselves as they prepared for the 2019 football season.
The Eagles come off a 6-6 2018 campaign and a second-round 6A playoff loss to county rival Brentwood. When Blade talked about the work the team did this off-season at the WCS media event in July, he focused on the team’s self-improvement and not just on the field.
“We’ve just kind of taken a step back and worked on ourselves,” Blade said. “We really don’t talk about other things, or other teams, we just focus on us and getting better, and with that approach it’s been a great off-season.”
Blade also highlighted the team’s work in the weight room and his for his ability to work on their bodies. He also highlighted quarterback Ethan Cash, defensive end Chase Robinson, offensive tackle/defensive tackle Caleb Lanford and offensive tackle/defensive end Connor Runion as leaders in the weight room.
Cash, a senior, talked about the improvement of a young receiving corps with the departures of Purdue University signee TJ Sheffield and Isaiah Collier.
“We have some new guys at the wide receiver position this year, we lost TJ and Isaiah, the big players but two players don’t make a whole team, or a whole group,” Cash said. “We have some young guys who are just working their tails off getting better every day. Their confidence level is rising with every catch, every rep.”
Rising senior Chayce Bishop should be one player to really watch this season from that group. Bishop transferred from Brentwood during this season last year and has interest from various colleges, including Missouri, Memphis, Northwestern and Sheffield’s new home, Purdue (per 24/7 Sports).
Robinson made the switch from receiver to defensive end last year and is currently committed to play in the Ivy League at Princeton University next fall.
He joins a mostly returning defensive line with Lanford and Runion. However, the Eagles offensive line will have some youth in 2019.
Blade, entering his 23rd year coaching overall, hopes to leave a legacy and positive experiences with his players that goes beyond football.
“Whether we win a game or not I want them to be the most authentic person they can be both as an athlete, as a student and as a person in our society,” he said. “Those are the things, when you come back around to it, that I’m looking to create. And all of that, when you create real dudes, that’s high school football—anything goes.”
The Eagles will have their first WillCo action of the year to start 2019 against Summit High School in the yearly Border Battle. The week after, they’ll face Christ Presbyterian Academy, the D-II AA state champs, and have their first region game on Sept. 6 against Centennial.
The Eagles will try to avenge their playoff loss to Brentwood when they host the Bruins on Oct. 4 and get a chance at region favorite Ravenwood on Nov. 1.
Rutherford County opponent Blackman awaits Sept. 13, and region foe Franklin is on the slate for Sept. 20.