Coach: Mike Natoli, third season (8-15)
2018 Record: 5-6, 2-5 in Southwestern 4A
Returning Starters: Offense, 7; Defense, 9
Inside the Huddle
Coach Mike Natoli has done a magnificent job wading the Patriots through some tough times both on the field and off and now is set to reap the rewards.
Independence returns five senior starters to the offensive line including 6-foot-5 left guard Malik Kelly.
Arnold Taylor is the Patriots’ new quarterback after transferring from Berry. He has some major weapons to get the ball to, including Shai Wheeler (40 catches, 582 yards and eight TDs) and Trevor Bryan (33 catches, 583 yards and three TDs). Brevin Caldwell and Brian Morgan are also dangerous and capable receivers, and big-bodied defensive standout Tyson Clawson gives them an intriguing target at the goal line.
Another name to know is running back David Nelson, who missed all of last year. He is a 5-10, 220-pound junior who Natoli is very high on.
Clawson (50 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks and 10 QB hurries) is the leader of a good defensive front that also includes Sirr Robinson, a run-stuffer who missed all of last season.
All three linebackers return including Zazueta and Robinson, the team’s leading tacklers last season.
Wheeler has a knack for the ball wherever and is one corner opposite Elijah Puranda in a talented secondary.
The Patriots’ time may have come as they look to further restore a proud program. This team has a great mix of talent and skill. The experience they got playing together last year should pay big dividends. The first four games of the season will be key, but if they can start 3-1, this team will be back in the playoffs.
QB: Arnold Taylor; RB: Davion Nelson/Taejuan Smith; WR: Brian Morgan; WR: Shai Wheeler; WR: Trevor Bryan; WR: Brevin Caldwell; TE: Tyson Clawson; LT: Melsy Bonilla; LG: Malik Kelly; C: Harrison Detter; RG: Chris Joyner; and RT: Max Moise.
DE: Tyson Clawson; DE: Messiah Lopez/Ethan Safriet; DT: Andre Spivey; DT: Sirr Robinson; LB: Dante Anderson; LB: Taejuan Smith; LB: Omar Zazueta; CB: Shai Wheeler; CB: Elijah Puranda; FS: Myrone Blair; and SS: Jeremy Phillips.
K: Ryan Howe; P: Alex Collins; P Ret: Shai Wheeler; and K Ret: Elijah Puranda.