Independence High School football coach Alan Jones was wondering if the streak would ever end.

Independence High School football coach Alan Jones was wondering if the streak would ever end.

Following his team's playoff appearance in 2003 with Division II Offensive Player of the Year Erik Haw, the 76ers endured four consecutive losing seasons.

"When you're losing, even your wife won't come to a football game," said Jones, whose team opens Friday at home against Harvest Prep. "You go 4-6 a few years, even your mother won't come to the game. People disappear."

But fans couldn't get enough last season.

Independence not only enjoyed a winning season, but qualified for the postseason for the first time in five years.

The 76ers finished at 7-4 overall and 5-2 in the City League-South Division behind co-champions Marion-Franklin and Eastmoor Academy (6-1) and ahead of Walnut Ridge (4-3), Briggs (4-3), Africentric (2-5), West (1-6) and South (0-7).

Their playoff run was short-lived, however, as they lost to second-seeded Louisville 60-24 in the first round.

Independence entered the final week of the regular season with a chance to earn a share of the City-South championship, but fell to Walnut Ridge 48-16. A week earlier, running back Devin Clodfelter rushed for 186 yards and two touchdowns to lead the 76ers to a 51-17 win over Marion-Franklin.

"(Marion-Franklin) came out probably thinking they were going to beat us," said Clodfelter, a 5-foot-9, 184-pound senior who made first-team all-state, all-district and all-league last year. "But we came out full speed and came away with the victory. I think this year we have the talent to be one of the best teams Independence has ever had."

The offense is loaded with eight returning starters, including Clodfelter, who rushed for 2,244 yards on 290 carries and 16 touchdowns.

Also back is junior quarterback Eric Pugh (5-10, 164), an honorable mention all-district and first-team all-league selection who threw for 1,069 yards.

But Jones, who counts 20 returning letterwinners, isn't about to break from Independence tradition.

"We're running the ball," he said. "A lot of times people think you throw a football because it's third-and-5 or third-and-10.I don't believe in that, and we've even been known to run the ball on fourth-and-5. It looks crazy, but it works for us."

Other returning starters on offense are junior linemen Brandon Hauth (6-0, 210) and William Jones (5-11, 197) and junior tight end Tim Dysart (6-3, 215).

"We've got four new faces up there," Clodfelter said. "It was hard at first, but I think they're getting the hang of the schemes and assignments and techniques. For me, I'm feeling even more confident because I know the plays and where I'm supposed to be."

Junior wide receiver Dejon Mickens (5-8, 181) also is back, as is junior Leland Sams (5-8, 141), who can play wing back, wide receiver and tailback.

Independence will enter the season with a young defense that returns three starters in Dysart and senior Bryant Jones (6-1, 180) at end and senior Tasean Lee (5-10, 160) in the secondary.

Others expected to contribute on defense include Sams, senior Kevin Sloan (5-10, 240) and junior William Vance (5-11, 171) at linebacker, sophomore Ladar Saunders (5-8, 231) and junior Dashonti Baker (5-8, 199) on the line and Gibson and juniors Vincent Rambo (5-7, 130) and Kejaun Johnson (5-5, 140) in the secondary.

Jones expects to find the right fit for the athletes he has.

"Defense is easy," he said. "You find a kid who's aggressive and you line them up and say, 'Let's go.' Offense is a little more cerebral."

Schedule

2009 SCHEDULE

Aug. 28 Harvest Prep Home

Sept. 4 Whetstone Home

Sept. 11 Lancaster Away

Sept. 18 Marion-Franklin Away

Sept. 25 South Home

Oct. 2 Briggs Away

Oct. 9 Africentric Home

Oct. 16 West Home

Oct. 23 Eastmoor Away

Oct. 30 Walnut Ridge Away

2008 RESULTS

(7-4 overall, 5-2 City-South)

Harvest Prep W, 52-26

Northland W, 26-7

Lancaster W, 37-6

South W, 52-8

Briggs W, 34-0

Africentric W, 47-24

West W, 70-23

Eastmoor Academy L, 47-8

Marion-Franklin W, 51-17

Walnut Ridge L, 48-16

PLAYOFFS

Louisville L, 60-24