The youth movement the Independence High School football team has undergone this fall hasn't precluded them from putting together a winning streak to begin City League-South Division play.
After losing back-to-back games to close their non-league schedule, the 76ers opened league play with blowout victories over Briggs (46-6 on Sept. 14), Africentric (56-0 on Sept. 21) and West (56-3 on Sept. 28).
The combined record of those three opponents is 1-17, but the competition for Independence gets significantly tougher Friday, Oct. 5, when it plays host to Eastmoor Academy.
The Warriors are a fellow Division III, Region 11 program that is 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the City-South after opening league action with wins over South (47-6 on Sept. 14), Walnut Ridge (26-20 on Sept. 21) and Marion-Franklin (47-0 on Sept. 28).
The Bulldogs and Scots both are 5-1 overall and 2-1 in the league and Marion-Franklin is 4-2 and 2-1.
"We definitely are getting better," 76ers coach Maurice Douglas said. "We replaced a lot of good football players from last year and have a lot of young kids out there. It took a while for them to pick up the system."
Senior Kealin Harden has rushed 88 times for 706 yards and eight touchdowns and senior Darantae Ervin has 344 yards rushing and nine scores on 51 carries, but Independence has a freshman at quarterback in Markell Holmes who has completed 22 of 41 passes for 372 yards and five touchdowns. Sophomore Shawn Munnerlyn has 14 catches for 238 yards and four scores.
Another freshman, Shamar Brown, has been standout on the defensive line.
"We're running the ball a lot, but again the strength of our team is usually the line of scrimmage, and we have a lot of new players up there," Douglas said. "Everybody's kind of getting on board and we're starting to look the way we're supposed to.
"Now we (play) Eastmoor, Marion-Franklin, South and Walnut Ridge. South is having a resurgence this year, so those four will all be pretty good. We're starting seven or eight freshmen or sophomores, and they're freshmen and sophomores so they make mistakes, but they're really starting to catch on to what we want to accomplish."
Bonkiye leading way for Eastmoor runners
The City League boys and girls cross country championships will be held Wednesday, Oct. 10, at Walnut Ridge.
After winning back-to-back team championships, the Eastmoor boys team should contend again because of the return of senior Bushra Bonkiye.
He placed third in the league last season behind 2018 graduates and teammates Chris Chandler and Omavi Hamilton and won the 13-team Rick Mettle Invitational on Sept. 26 at Walnut Ridge in 17 minutes, 22.3 seconds as the Warriors finished third (112) behind Groveport (32) and Centennial (79).
Bonkiye was Eastmoor's No. 4 runner in 2016 when it reached the Division II state meet.
"I believe at the Division II level he's got a great shot to qualify for the state meet," coach Jason Lewis said. "He's pretty strong. He really committed to strength training during the summer."
Senior Duane Gordon is a newcomer who has been the team's No. 2 runner. Juniors Ira Graham and Darnell Johnson and sophomore Kalani Booker also are key runners.
Eastmoor's girls team has a pair of runners who Lewis is high on in senior Samaria Rodgers-Gossett and junior Jaylin Bradshaw.
"Duane Gordon has got a lot of potential," Lewis said. "He just ran his first race so all of this stuff is new to him, and he's going to be strong for us in the track season. I also have two girls that I'm expecting to make all-City."
Vikings boys soccer team cruising along
The Northland boys soccer team is on track to advance to the City League championship game.
Heading into their game Monday, Oct. 8, at West, the Vikings are 7-0-1 overall and 4-0-1 in the City-North. They close league action Oct. 11 at home against two-time defending champion Beechcroft.
Northland already has beaten two of the league's other top programs in Centennial (3-1 on Sept. 20) and Whetstone (2-1 on Sept. 25).
Beechcroft lost to Mifflin 4-1 on Sept. 25 to fall to 1-2-1 in the league.