BY CALEB LAY
Daily Star sports Reporter
The Independence Tigers (5-5) found their stride at the end of the season, going 4-2 for the last six games to find themselves as the 17-seed in the Class 2A playoffs.
Head coach Keith Carona said the turnaround from 1-3 to 5-5 is due to the team figuring out what they were good at on offense.
"One of the biggest things for us has been discovering Tyrick Harness can do so much," Carona said. The five-six, 156-pound sophomore helps the Tigers more than playing just on the outside as a receiver.
"He can line up at running back, quarterback, wide receiver and return kicks," Carona said. "The stuff he does may not show up in the stats, but he's always helping our team. Last week [against Springfield] he was running as an option-quarterback and making the right reads pitching to [running back] Anthony McClain who got the yards."
McClain totaled 156 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries while Harness recorded 41 rushing yards and a touchdown on four carries in a 52-22 win over Springfield last week.
The main thing this team is good at though is a strong running game. The Tigers often use a power-I formation to run from, leaning heavily on McClain as the feature with Harness, Gaines and Stephan Jackson carrying the ball every couple of plays as a change of pace to give the lead-runner a rest.
"You never know exactly what you got on offense some years until you play a couple of games," Carona said. "It just took us a couple games to establish our identity."
This Friday, the Tigers take on the 16-seeded Lakeside Warriors in Sibley, Louisiana. The drive will take more than four hours for the Tigers, so Carona said the team planned on leaving early to break the trip up a little bit.
"I'm not worried about the drive," Carona said. "For the coaches, we're experienced. This is my 70th playoff game, and we've developed a routine for how we treat these things."
The Warriors are 7-3 on the season, and Carona said they have a good quarterback that likes to throw to a receiver who is a big deep-threat the Tigers need to account for.
"They're coached up and play good, fundamental defense too," Carona said. "We have to avoid penalties, turnovers and allowing big plays to win this game. On defense, we've been in good position in most of our games but struggled to tackle. We have to put guys on the ground to win this game."