Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The 2011 Preseason Sweet 16 Football Poll: No. 14 Independence

NOTE: Each day, the Observer will unveil a team ranked in its Sweet 16 football poll. We continue today with No. 14 Independence. Wednesday (Aug. 3) around 3 p.m, the No. 13 team will be unveiled and each day at 3 p.m. a new team will follow.
By Ron Green Jr.

 At Independence, everything was different last season.

 Long-time football coach Tom Knotts had left for Irmo, S.C., and hundreds of students had been reassigned to the new Rocky River high school.

 The football team, once rich with talent, was short on numbers and head coach Bill Geiler, back for his second turn in charge of the program, wasn’t fully prepared for what he was inheriting.

 The result was a 3-8 season.

 For a program that won 109 consecutive games and seven straight state championships just a few years earlier, it was a sudden, sobering fall.

 "I didn’t know who my players were going to be. I didn’t know who was coming back and who wasn’t," Geiler said. "A number of players were at Butler where they won a championship. We lost 40 players right off the bat (with Rocky River opening).

 "I had a quarterback who had to learn a new system, new coaches, a new school and new players. It was hard. We had guys playing who would have been on the bench or not on the team at all a few years before. But they never quit. They never whined. They never complained. But they were outmanned."

 This year, Geiler said, should be better.

 He can already sense a better team chemistry, an element that went missing last season.

 "They want to put last year in their far, far memories," Geiler said.

 Geiler has made changes on the coaching staff. Long-time offensive coordinator Jon Strong has retired and been replaced by Joe Evans, who is tweaking the offense. Geiler said he had 16 assistant coaches last season, too many in his opinion, so he’s scaled back this year.

 It will be centered around quarterback Evan Guest, a 6-foot, 2-inch, 180-pound senior who accounted for more yardage than any player in Mecklenburg County last season. The Patriots were ineffective running the ball so they were forced to rely on Guest’s throwing ability to move the ball.

 The emphasis will remain on the passing game, Geiler said, but he’s hopeful the Patriots will be better able to run the ball.

 Guest isn’t in the Chris Leak-Joe Cox quarterback class but Geiler said his senior has made dramatic strides. He’s attended several combines, recently attending an invitation-only combine in Oklahoma.
The reviews, Geiler said, have been outstanding.

 "He doesn’t have the arm strength, the knowledge or the training that (Leak and Cox) had," Geiler said. "He couldn’t do a three-step drop. He couldn’t throw into coverage.

 "But he’s made himself better. He’s doing phenomenally."

 Guest will be responsible for running the Independence offense at a quicker pace than last season. The scheme has been simplified and players have been working on it since January.

 The Patriots have a good group of receivers led by Austin Duke, who has Shrine Bowl potential, Geiler said.

 Twice last year, the Patriots lost close games because they failed to score from inside the five-yard line in part because of a weak running game. R.J. Baker and Isaiah Robinson are being counted on to remedy that problem this season.

 Geiler remains in charge of the defense, which is led by linebacker Kahlil Gonzales and cornerback Jack Tocho.

 What the Patriots can’t afford are injuries.

 "We have no depth," Geiler said.

 But the Patriots do have reason for optimism.

 "I’m happy with my kids. They all bought into what we’re doing," Geiler said. "This team is going to get better. The goal is to beat Hough in the first game and go from there.
 "We want to make the playoffs and win the state title. The reality is I don’t know if we have enough bodies to that. But this team could be as good as some of the early teams we had (at Independence)."

Last year:
What’s new: Joe Evans is the Patriots’ new offensive coordinator, replacing Jon Strong who retired. Evans played at West Mecklenburg and Appalachian State.
Three to watch:
QB Evan Guest (6-2, 180), Sr. He has gained 20 pounds through a relentless workout routine.
LB Kahlil Gonzales (5-9, 170) Sr. Coach Bill Geiler calls him the "leader of the whole program."
CB Jack Tocho (5-11, 185) Jr. Moved from linebacker to secondary and has excellent speed.
Bet you didn’t know: Cornerback Jack Tocho was clocked electronically running a 4.4 40-yard dash this summer.
Preview analysis: After struggling through a difficult season due to multiple changes last year, the Patriots have the potential to regain some of their former glory. If they can stay healthy and quarterback Evan Guest has a big season, Independence could win plenty of games.
Schedule: Aug. 19, at Hough; Aug. 26, at North Mecklenburg; Sept. 2, Vance; Sept. 9, West Charlotte; Sept. 16, at East Mecklenburg; Sept. 23, Ardrey Kell; Sept. 30, at Providence; Oct. 6, South Mecklenburg; Oct. 14, Rocky River; Oct. 21, at Myers Park; Oct. 28, Butler.

No. 13 ??? (Unveiled 8/3 at 3 p.m.)
No. 14: Independence 4A
No. 15: Lincolnton 2A
No. 16: Albemarle 1A


Anonymous said...

Whew .... this may be the biggest homer pick I have ever seen. I guess you need the Charlotte teams on the list to sell papers.

Anonymous said...

Just because po-dunk nowhere doesn't have a paper, you shouldn't talk bad about Charlotte's. Homeboy.

Anonymous said...

hmm idk about this one Indy will be better than last year but idk how much

Anonymous said...

Big time reach. Chris Leak ain't walking through the door. Wish Big I the best, but they have been dealt a huge blow w/ the new school.

Anonymous said...

Absurd...You trying to tell me Evan Guest weighed only 160lbs last year. I saw the photos yesterday, he is still a twig. Indy might win 4-5 games MAX.

Anonymous said...

Not really sure about how they get these rankings as Independence get a No. 14 ranking based on history and with a 3-8 record last year. The Lincolnton Wolves finished 14-1 last year and are preseaon ranked #2 in the 2A and they are ranked number 15. Please someone help me understand this other than the charlotte bias.

Anonymous said...

The flaw of the college voting system is evident here. Storied teams like Texas and Alabama and USC always have a built-in edge in new season polling simply because of the name on their jersey, no matter what their talent actually is or how good they were the season before. This is an absurd choice to be in the Sweet 16, but I'm not surprised. It took something like 5 losses last year before the Observer finally bumped them out of the top 10.

Anonymous said...

as a high school player that played against independence last year, you guys are not giving them enough credit. they had a lot more talent on their team than their 3 wins suggests.

Anonymous said...

It can go either way for Indy this year. They can enter the Butler game undefeated or with several losses. The talent is there. Can the staff get it in gear and the players are all aboard. That did not happen last year and with a few early losses the attitudes killed it.

Anonymous said...

Funny that Indy lost 40 players to Rocky River. Butler was supposed to lose that many to Indy but the dorm/apartment plan on Sam Newell road kicked in (all the stars. No wonder all the coaches, A.D., and principal are gone at Butler. SHAME.

Anonymous said...

Man, remember the early 2000s when The Big "I" was a national powerhouse??? The Chris Leaks and Joe Cox. Time surely has passed us by.

Anonymous said...

Lincolnton! Hahaha! You guys are ridiculous to think that you belong beside Indy, Butler, Providence, Myers Park, South Meck, or East Meck. You all wouldn't win a game in this conference. YOU ARE A 2A SCHOOL. Take your Charlotte Bias issue and stay in Hickville with your little league football team. I mean the hickory Grove Lions would beat ya'll and they are a tiny private school here in Charlotte.

Anonymous said...

Getting ready for the HS Football season really takes me back. For those that have been around for awhile, what is the great football team/year ever in the history of Charlotte? Also, feel free for some honorable mentions as well...

Anonymous said...

Sorry folks, last posting, I meant to say "greatest team/year ever."

Anonymous said...

There's no way that Independence's QB is 180!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Ron Green is wrong when he says tom knotts took the job at irmo high. He went to a school outside of columbia named Dutch Fork and took them to the playoffs last year.Geez ron jr....do some investigating and ground work before you write a story!!

Anonymous said...

Lincolnton would beat Indy by two touchdowns,2A or not.

Anonymous said...

Dutch Fork High School
1400 Old Tamah Rd
Irmo, SC 29063

Mr. Green didn't mention Irmo High in any way whatsoever in his writeup. Reading comprehension is your friend, don't be afraid of it.

Anonymous said...

INDY could go into the Butler game with 1 lost,

Anonymous said...

Should find Mallard Creek near the top of the list. They have a long list of talented returning players and got a transfer out of Georgia (Anthony Covington) who is not only a talented RB, but can play the other side of the ball too. As a soph. he already has the attention of several SEC schools ! Will see if the ACC can keep him !

Anonymous said...

FYI..on Anthony Covington/Mallard Creek comment. Youtube has several highlight videos posted of the kid

Anonymous said...

Better not leave the juggernaut Belmont South Point Red Raiders off the list. You have a tendency to do that. Thats okay though, with only 9 conference championships since 2000 and a couple of State Championships in the bag and looking for another this year, I can see why you forget them. Big Red Machine rolls on!