By Maurice Patton
THOMPSONS STATION — It would seem that, over nearly a decade, there would come a time that Scott Blade would be without a quarterback capable of performing at the level necessary to engineer the high-powered offense that Independence has relied upon throughout his tenure.
It doesn’t seem that this is that time.
Joe Cummings, a senior who sat out last season after transferring from Battle Ground Academy, appears set to continue the Eagles’ signal-calling lineage that began with Blade’s 2013 arrival after four seasons at Oak Ridge.
“Everything goes through the quarterback,” Blade said following Friday’s scrimmage against visiting Overton. “He takes care of the ball. There’s a read progression on every play. If he’s smart and disciplined and keeps his eyes down field, there’s typically a receiver that’s going to be open. It’s discipline and keeping your eyes down field, having the God-given strength and ability to do that and make the throws – they’re all over the field.
“We have been blessed that we’ve had guys that were able to do that.”
Starting with Andrew Bunch, a sophomore when Blade showed up at Independence who led the Eagles to the 2015 Class 5A state title, the parade at the position continued with Brandon Hines, Nathan Cisco, Ethan Cash and Jaxson Campbell – a quintet that helped Independence to a .700 winning percentage.
Cummings took note.
“It’s a big deal, for sure,” he said of playing that position for that program. “I think it’s the way Coach (Blade) operates around the guys he has – Ethan Cash, Jaxson, even Andrew when they won state. They find the right pieces with what they have. I think that’s what makes it so special here at Independence.”
Though Cummings spent the first portion of his high school career at BGA – reversing the path that Williamson County product C.J. Beathard took, from Indy to BGA to Iowa to the NFL – he previously played at Heritage Middle School in Spring Hill.
“I played with these guys in middle school,” he said. “I figured I’d come back and hopefully help this team win some games this year.”
Early indications point to that being the case. In limited action Friday, Cummings completed five of eight passes for 112 yards and three touchdowns.
“He was on point, and just about every ball was catchable,” Blade said. “The good thing is, he’s had a year to kind of absorb the offense and learn enough in a (junior varsity) role so that this year makes sense and there’s preparation time and the game slows down like it should for a senior.
“He’s got all the physical tools. Mentally now it’s about getting him enough reps. We got some 7-on-7 time. It’s a work in progress. We haven’t been tested, like (Christ Presbyterian Academy) and Lipscomb and Ravenwood and all the teams we’re going to play, but in 7-on-7 he was super accurate, he’s been super accurate in practice and he was super accurate (Friday).”
First-year Overton coach Arcentae Broome, who’s seen Blade’s Independence and Hillsboro squads from the opposite sidelines during previous stops at Maplewood and McGavock, sees why his teams have been able to build on their success behind center.
“Sometimes, what you display, people want to be a part of it,” Broome said. “We weren’t on that level, but at Maplewood, we were manufacturing quarterbacks. We were never in a situation where we didn’t have that good of a quarterback. Blade’s the same way, just on a better level.
“It feeds off itself, it breeds a sense of consistency and it brings people along.”
Cummings follows Campbell, who accounted for 2,697 offensive yards and 34 total touchdowns last fall.
“It’s a fun offense to play in when there’s protection and (the quarterbacks are) on point,” Blade said. “They know we’re going to throw. Even last year, with shortened preparation time and a different offense – our first time to use a tight end-type, a running-first quarterback – it’s still an offense that’s receiver friendly, and quarterback friendly as well.”
Photos by Ric Beu / SM-Tn Sports