Almost every coach spouts optimism before a football season. Independent first-year coach Jeff Boone uses a different word.
“I prefer realism,” Boone said.
Even though Independent plays in the challenging Central Plains League and doesn’t boast the roster depth of many of its competitors, Boone’s realism doesn’t equal hopelessness.
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In fact, Boone confesses to plenty of reasons for positive thought. Independent’s final four games of 2014 included two wins and a close loss to Bluestem. The Panthers have a potentially exciting offense with speedy receivers and the return from injury of shifty running back Chris Taylor.
“It’s going to definitely rely on some of our players, some of our athletes, making some plays,” Boone said. “(The offense) has the capacity to be explosive, because Shase Williams is fast and is an All-CPL wide receiver. Chad Eikelberry is a two-time All-CPL wide receiver. They’re both pretty quick.”
The quickness of the receivers allows Boone a more balanced offense, practically forcing him to turn off the old-school side of his brain that tempts him to run on nearly every play.
Boone’s traditional philosophies extend to his belief that defense can make or break a season. Independent doesn’t possess the security of many returning defensive players, so Boone’s ideas for improvement there begin modestly.
“Our defense will make some plays for us, that’s all we have to do,” Boone said. “We’re going to gamble some, I think that’s a fair guess – or at least look like we’re going to gamble some. But we have to try to do something to make plays.”