SB

Scott Blade decided it was time to step away from football.

He resigned as Independence’s coach Wednesday after posting a 74-37 record, including a state championship and a runner-up finish during his nine-year run.

“It was time for a break,” Blade said. “Time to just take a step back. I’ve been doing this for 25 years and I’m at that point where it doesn’t mean I’m done forever. It just means I’d like to explore some other opportunities outside of education.”

A first-round Class 6A playoff loss to Collierville two weeks ago ended the Eagles’ year at 4-7, Blade’s only losing season at Indy.

Blade is looking forward to a rest from the long hours of coaching, but said burnout wasn’t the reason he stepped down.

“You know you’re getting into the grind when you sign up to be a coach and I have been blessed with coaching great teams and working with great coaches and athletes,” Blade said. “I’ve been blessed with working with great administrations. Dr. [Niki] Patton and her team are second to none.”

Blade, 48, exits with a 146-57 overall record for a 71.9 winning percentage in 16 seasons at Independence, Oak Ridge and Hillsboro.

He also won a state title with the Burros.

“At some point, you just need to take a deep breath and step back and maybe let someone else have the opportunity to keep the program moving forward,” Blade said. “And that’s all this is. I know it’s a bit of a shock sometimes, but that’s all it is.”

Independence made the playoffs during all nine seasons he was there.

“We have great coaches on our staff and we have great kids, so it’s one of those things where you want to leave the program in the best shape possible and I think we’ve done that,” Blade said. “It’s never a great time to step away, but I felt like the transition could be made with as (few) hiccups as possible, knowing that there’s already great pieces in place.”

Blade said he’s not sure what the future holds for him.

His high-scoring teams usually ran a multiple spread offense.

“I think my teams were known for being competitive and playing tough schedules and sometimes winning games we shouldn’t necessarily win on paper,” Blade said. “Hopefully, what they remember is I cared about the kids, cared about the program and the school and hopefully they got something good out of it.”

Independence won 29 straight games from 2015 to 2016, winning the Class 5A title in 2015 and finishing second the following year during the most successful two-year stretch in school history.

“Yeah, it was a great time at Independence,” Blade said. “We had a great run there. That will forever tie my memories back to Independence and the great people I had a chance to work with. Those type of years don’t come along very often.”

Independence’s Andrew Bunch passed for 3,405 yards and 41 touchdowns with only four interceptions in 2015 before moving on to Scottsdale Community College, Nebraska and Southeast Missouri.

“We had a whole cast of great players and coaches associated with the program,” Blade said. “There are a lot of moving parts to make something go so well and were fortunate to be on the good end of that one.”  

Blade and Bunch went skydiving in Thompson’s Station in the summer of 2016.

“We both don’t like heights and he had graduated and we decided, well, heck, let’s go conquer them together,” Blade said. “And it was a fun, bonding experience and something we’ll treasure for the rest of our lives.”

Blade coached Hillsboro to the Class 4A championship in 2008 when the Burros ended Maryville’s 74-game winning streak with a 10-7 upset in the final.

“Yeah, it was an incredible memory,” Blade said. “That team just came together. They overcame a ton. My starting quarterback broke his thumb in the semifinals against Henry County. Our starting linebacker went to quarterback for the championship game playing Maryville and he went both ways.”

Blade went 37-5 in three years at Hillsboro and 35-15 in four seasons at Oak Ridge before arriving in Williamson County.

He played linebacker at San Diego State before coaching high school and junior college in California.

Blade worked in the financial industry for John Hancock in California and might return to that profession.

He will spend the coming weeks trying to figure out his next move.

“Football has been very good to me,” Blade said. “It doesn’t mean I’m done forever. It means I’m taking a break and re-evaluating some things I want to accomplish in life. I leave the game temporarily or permanently with no regrets and a lot of fond memories and a lot of fond relationships.”