Joe Evans knows all about the tradition of Independence football: He watched the Patriots win seven straight state titles from 2000 to 2006.The first-year Patriots head coach is striving to return his team to championship form and knows he can do it only by being himself.“I just have to be the best Joe Evans that I can be,” Evans said. “I’ll never be Bill Geiler. I’ll never be Tom Knotts. I wouldn’t even put myself in their class.“But I hope to be able to get Independence back to that (championship) level. To do it, I have to be myself. We all have to make our own way.”With 11 starters returning from a 10-3 squad (6-1 in Southwestern 4A), including several Division I commits, Evans said he believes the Patriots can contend.How good Independence is this season will depend a lot on junior quarterback Kelvin Hopkins, who started the last three games of 2012 against Butler twice, in the regular season and playoffs, and Northwest Guilford in a playoff win.While Hopkins stands only 5 feet 9 inches and 180 pounds, he has a strong arm and the speed to make plays regularly. Evans compares him to former Independence quarterback Anthony Carrothers, noting Hopkins also loves the film-study room.While Hopkins’ growth will be key, the Patriots’ go-to guy will again be senior tailback Isaiah Robinson.Robinson, who committed to Wake Forest earlier this month, has the size (5-11, 220 pounds) and talent (1,549 yards rushing, 16 touchdowns last year) to dominate.“Isaiah is a workhorse who wants the ball,” Evans said. “He can break one for a big play or get you the tough three or four yards for a first down.”“The way I see, if I’m clicking, then the offense is clicking, and that also helps our defense,” Robinson said. “But in the end, I don’t care about individual stats, I just want to help my team win championships.”Robinson should open things up for the Independence passing attack.Hopkins has a wealth of talent to throw to, led by senior Workpeh Kofa (6-2, 200 pounds) who looks to build on his 33-catch, 604-yard, nine-touchdown effort from last year and should be motivated by offers from Appalachian State, UNC Charlotte and Louisville, among others.Kofa is joined by Lincoln High (Brooklyn, N.Y.) transfer Jamiek Davis (6-3, 205 pounds) and juniors Jamar Jenkins and Will Walton.The Patriot offense will also benefit from a strong offensive line that boasts two college-bound players at center: Tony Adams (6-3, 300 pounds; N.C. State) and Chris Wade (6-6, 275 pounds; Furman.) The Patriot defense also looks strong, with five starters returning.Bennett Boateng, Christian Colon, Jahfari Sommersel and Chris Phipps will make life difficult for opposing offenses, said Evans.Middle linebacker Justin Messick and outside backers Chris Turpin and Chris Mangum and Jimmel Twine complete a solid front seven.But Independence’s defensive strength is in the secondary, where all-SW4A performers in cornerback Deion Washington (61 tackles) and safety Adonis Alexander (6-3, 185 pounds) return. Washington also is a dynamic punt returner, returning three for touchdowns last year.Tim Marshall, Cordell McMurray, Elijah Small and Cole Reynolds also will be regulars in the secondary rotation.“We’ve got some work to do, but I think everyone is at that point getting ready for the season,” said Evans.With a new-look conference that has Butler, East Meck, Myers Park and Rocky River – and is adding two-time 4A state runner-up Porter Ridge and Garinger – every Friday will be a battle.“Right now, we’re only thinking about South Meck,” Evans said, referring to the Patriots’ Aug. 22 opener. “We know the standard at Independence is high, so we just have to focus on the task at hand each week. If we can do that, we feel like we will be playing in bigger games down the line.”
Wednesday, Jul. 31, 2013
Independence targets SW4A football title
Independence High Patriots (10-3) Coach: Joe Evans (first-year head coach at Independence). Starters returning: 11 (six offense, five defense). Key players: • RB Isaiah Robinson, Sr. (5-foot-11, 220 pounds): Wake Forest commit expecting another big season after rushing for 1,549 yards and 16 touchdowns last year. • C T ony Adams, Sr. (6-foot-3, 300 pounds): N.C. State commit helps lead Patriot offense. • CB Deion Washington, Jr. (5-foot-7, 170 pounds): All-SW4A corner had 61 tackles, three interceptions last year and has speed to be a game-changer on defense and returns. Can’t-miss games: Sept. 12 against West Mecklenburg; Oct. 4 at Porter Ridge; Nov. 8 against Butler. 2013 schedule Aug. 22: vs. South Mecklenburg Aug. 30: at North Mecklenburg Sept. 6: vs. Olympic Sept. 12 vs. West Mecklenburg Sept. 20: at Hough Sept. 27: vs. East Mecklenburg Oct. 4 at Porter Ridge Oct. 18 vs. Garinger Oct. 25 at Myers Park Nov. 1 at Rocky River Nov. 8 vs. Butler
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer for Union News. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at email@example.com.
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