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Independence football preview: Former Falcon now leads program as head coach

Head coach: Tyler Schilhabel, first season
Last season: 7-4 overall, 4-1 SYL
Playoffs: Lost in Central Section D-III first round
History: League titles (3); Section titles (0)
Assistant coaches: Russell Robertson, OL/DL; Dave Schilhabel, RB/LB; Kenny Wiley, defensive coordinator

2018 season

Aug. 17 - vs. South
Aug. 24 - vs. Selma
Aug. 31 - at Arroyo Grande
Sept. 7 - at Stockdale
Sept. 14 - at Frontier
Sept. 21 - BYE
Sept. 28 - at Tehachapi*
Oct. 5 - vs. Golden Valley*
Oct. 12 - at West*
Oct. 19 - vs. Bakersfield Christian*
Oct. 26 - vs. Ridgeview*
*SYL game

Top returner

Malik Delouth, senior, RB/DB - First-year head coach Tyler Schilhabel calls the speedy and elusive running back a “silent, but good leader” whom other players rally around. Could be a big playmaker again this fall for the Falcons.

Key standouts

Sergio Borrelli, senior, QB - Returns after splitting time at quarterback in 2017. Can run well and will be used more in the pistol offense.

Armani Denweed, senior, WR/CB - Another two-way standout for Independence. Solid size and speed, which helps him cover the whole field on both side of the ball.

Nate Enriquez, senior, OL/DL - Key player on a quick yet undersized offensive line, Enriquez is a vocal leader for Independence.

Defining feature

A late resignation by former head coach Lucas Lucero left Independence in a lurch, conducting a job search late in the spring.

On May 24 former Falcons quarterback Tyler Schilhabel, who was paralyzed after an ATV accident in 2010, returned to his alma mater as head coach.

Independence won a school-record seven games in 2017 and, even with the late change in the coaching seat, appears to have carried that momentum into this fall.

“As soon I got here, I let them know what I was all about and what this program was going to be all about going forward,” Schilhabel said. “Everybody bought in right away, which I was really excited for. Nobody rolled their eyes, nobody showed any hesitation.”

It doesn’t hurt that the Falcons return enough skill players that will fit right into the new offense Schilhabel has instilled.

Malik DeLouth and Armani Denweed were key to the run and pass game last season and quarterback Sergio Borrelli returns.

“Those guys will be able to make some plays for us,” Schilhabel said. “I am excited to get the ball in their hands and let them do their thing.”

What has changed?

When a winning program has to go through a coaching change late in the offseason, it can take a toll on the players.

However, at Independence, Tyler Schilhabel said it wasn’t that difficult to get his team dialed into the way he and his coaching staff want the Falcons to build on.

“I think it’s getting a lot of time with them and getting a lot of time in the classroom,” Schilhabel said. “I’ve already seen it with them (over the summer), guys were able to transition very quickly and have confidence in this staff and what we are trying to do here.”

Players like Borrelli knew Schilhabel when he was an assistant coach, when the current seniors were freshmen.

“We are ready to play,” Borrelli said. “It’s great to have (Schilhabel) here. He’s a really great guy.”

At just 24 years old, Schilhabel is one of the youngest head coaches in the Central Section. But with nearly five years of coaching experience, the blueprint was built quickly in hopes the Falcons can build off a successful 2017 season.

“They had success last year and know they can build off that,” Schilhabel said. “That’s what played into things being a little more seamless. They know the success they’ve had. They know the guys who are returning. All they have to do is believe in what we are trying to do.”

Trevor Horn can be reached at (661) 395-7374. Follow him on Twitter: @trevhorn.

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