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. To get there, Evans said he just has to be himself.
I just have to be the best Joe Evans that I can be, Evans said. Ill never be Bill Geiler. Ill never be Tom Knotts (the Patriots previous two coaches). I wouldnt even put myself in their class. But I hope to be able to get Independence back to that 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 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.
While Hopkins is only 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, he has a strong arm and the speed to make plays regularly. Evans compared him to another former Independence quarterback who was only 5-foot-8 national record-setter Anthony Carrothers. Evans said Hopkins also loves to study film.
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-foot-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.
Robinson said he cant wait to get started.
The way I see it, if Im clicking, then the offense is clicking, and that also helps our defense, Robinson said. But in the end, I dont 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 many talented options to throw to, led by senior Workpeh Kofa (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) who looks to build on his 33-catch, 604-yard, nine-touchdown effort last year. He 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-foot-3, 205 pounds) and juniors Jamar Jenkins and Will Walton.
The Patriots offense will also benefit from a strong offensive line that boasts two college-bound players at center. Tony Adams (6-foot-3, 300 pounds) is headed to N.C. State and Chris Wade (6-foot-6, 275 pounds) will go to Furman.
The Patriots defense also looks strong, with five starters returning.
Bennett Boateng, Christian Colon, Jahfari Sommersel and Chris Phipps will make life difficult for opposing offenses.
Middle linebacker Justin Messick and outside backers Chris Turpin, Chris Mangum and Jimmel Twine complete a solid front seven.
But Independences defensive strength is in the secondary, where cornerback Deion Washington (61 tackles) and safety Adonis Alexander (6-foot-3, 185 pounds) return.
Washington also is a dynamic punt returner, returning three for touchdowns last year.
Weve got some work to do, but I think everyone is at that point getting ready for the season, said Evans.
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.
This story originally appeared in South Charlotte News and at newsofsouthcharlotte.com.
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email firstname.lastname@example.org to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less