Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Independence seniors lead the way

For the Independence Blue Devils, the 2015 season had its ups and downs.

With just three seniors on its roster of 26 players, Independence was young and inexperienced, which forced the seniors—Jacob Riley, Jacob Palik and Evan Collins—to reshape their own goals to help the team build for the future.

“It’s been tough for Jake and Jake having four coaches in four years, but I’ve talked to them about it,” said Independence first year coach Rick Adams. “They’re creating a legacy future players will follow and build off of. Their job was to lay the groundwork and foundation this year.”

That foundation is being built on hard work and effort.

That’s where Riley made his mark.

“He’s the one who that really held everything together this season,” Adams said. “From the first time I met him, he was the first person I met when I became head coach, he did everything in the off-season and when you look at a leader he was the leader of the team. He doesn’t get a lot of press because he doesn’t run the ball or catch the ball, but as the center for us he’s the No. 1 lineman. At any other school, if he was playing at Rocky River he would have been a fullback for me and a linebacker, but because of where’ we’re at he had to play O-line and D-line and he did a great job for us. He was hurt against Berkshire and that obviously was a big hole in the middle for us.”

Riley enters his final game second on the team with 42 tackles despite missing two games, one sack, one forced fumble and he has blocked a field goal.

Palik also has played both ways and has five tackles this season.

“He is somebody who has rotated in throughout the year on the D-line and has played hard,” Adams said. “With his size, he’s not the biggest or strongest kid but he has battled every week for us. He never complained about being undersized. He has just every week gone out and played the best he can.”

Collins, a first year placekicker, was a bright spot for the Blue Devils this season.

He has converted 13 of 18 point after tries and is 3 for 4 on field goal attempts with a long of 45 yards and he nearly hit on a 48-yard try.

“He definitely had the distance,” Adams said. “He has the leg to hit a 50-yarder and the one thing about his field goals is he kicks off the ground. He doesn’t use a tee. He has the ability to create the power to drive the ball.”

Collins was even more important to the Blue Devils’ defense.

He booted 8 of 28 kickoffs into the end zone for a touchback and on the other 20 he reached the 2 or 3-yard line on average.

“Having that type of player has really helped us,” Adams said. “After a kickoff the opposing team’s average starting field position has bene inside the 20 yard line. That’s been huge for us.”

Independence hosts Cuyahoga Heights on Friday.


Steve Harehttp://www.ohiovarsity.com
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes OhioVarsity.com, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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