In 2004, Independence High quarterback Joe Cox led one of the most potent offenses in N.C. history.
The Patriots averaged 54 points and nearly 500 yards per game. Since Cox left for college at Georgia after that resplendent 2004 season, Independence's offense just hasn't been the same – until now.
From 2005-07, Independence did not average 40 points per game.
The Patriots won state championships from 2000-04 by averaging no fewer than 43.8.
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But this year's team is scoring – and moving the ball – like the Independence teams of old.
The 2008 Patriots, who play Butler on Friday at Memorial Stadium, are averaging 46.5 points.
“I'm pleased with how we're coming along offensively,” coach Tom Knotts said. “We're thin, but we're staying healthy. We know how to practice.”
Knotts said this is the best Independence offense since 2004. In the past three seasons, Independence has run the ball a little more than usual.
This year, junior quarterback Anthony Carrothers has thrown for 2,649 yards and 27 touchdowns in nine games.
If Independence goes deep enough in the playoffs, he could produce the fifth 4,000-yard passing season in Mecklenburg County history.
“We used to be more ball control and we threw it to run it,” Knotts said. “Now we throw it to throw it and we've got five guys who can catch it and scoot around and get it done.”
Carrothers has five quality receivers in seniors Lawrence Martin, Michael Rhynes and Sebastian Green, plus juniors Avius Capers and Kierre Brown.
“We have more pride than last year, more heart than last year,” Carrothers said. “We just come out and play our butts off now. We've got a lot more playmakers on the field and coach is doing a good job rotating players in and out.”
Green said Carrothers is “100 percent” improved over his sophomore season, which is a big reason why the offense is clicking so well.
“He puts the ball in the right place and he reads defenses really well,” Green said. “You could see he was doing better over the summer. He started picking things up quicker and he's become more of a weapon now.”
With their offense producing as it did early in the decade, the Patriots hope to win their eighth N.C. championship in nine years next month.
Last season, Independence had its 109-game winning streak stopped. The Patriots lost three, including blowing a 14-0 lead in a 28-17 loss to New Bern in the state final.
That's been fuel for this season – and this offense.
“We were kind of embarrassed about last year,” Knotts said, “blowing the (win) streak and blowing the other streak (of seven straight championships). But our offense is coming along nicely, our defense is playing well.
“We feel like this is our time of year.”