INDEPENDENCE, Kan., - For years Independence Community College program has struggled to keep up with the big boys in its own conference.
Jayhawk Conference powers Butler County and Coffeyville have made it difficult for the Pirate program to compete because they've pumped money into their athletic budgets, improved facilities and hired good head and assistant coaches.
On Saturday against Highland Community College, Independence got a fresh start under new coach David Ward and the Pirates look like they have some talent to help turn things around.
The biggest weapon the Pirates have in their arsenal this season is cornerback/receiver Alonzo Wilson. The 6-foot, 178-pound athlete already has an offer on the table from Purdue and is getting attention from other programs all over the nation and it was easy to see why on Saturday.
In Independence's 30-10 victory, Wilson showed flashes of brilliance.
After a lackluster first half in which Wilson directly contributed to Highland's only touchdown of the game when he fumbled a punt into the end zone, he turned things around. He sparked a comeback victory with an interception return for a score and then on offense he showed his versatility when he caught a touchdown.
When his game was on, Wilson was a sight to see.
Wilson still looks like he has a very wiry and thin frame, but the Boynton Beach, Fla., native does have a good gait, solid hips and decent hands, which would allow him to contribute in college at either cornerback or on special teams.
Independence also had several other players that looked impressive at times.
Ward said he has around six players that could end up playing Division I football, and back in the defensive backfield with Wilson was Ray Cheatham, a good looking cornerback from El Dorado, Ark. Cheatham and Wilson were often put out on an island by themselves and didn't get tested much, but when they did they came up big. Both were keys in helping the Pirates snag four interceptions on the day.
Defensive tackle Branden Banks, originally from Roseville, Mich., was an impressive redshirt freshman that is sure to attract some Division I attention because of his size. He's listed at 6-4 and 330 pounds, and at times he was quite impressive on Saturday.
Linebacker Charlie Stevens, who is 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, showed a few signs that he could also be a D-I prospect. Todd Zoglemann, a defensive tackle that is 6-foot-3 and 290 pounds, also looked good at times.
There were two pleasant surprises that emerged throughout the game - Pirate freshman safety Lewis Panky and Highland sophomore defensive tackle Isaac Mason.
Mason, a 6-foot-3, 320-pound defensive tackle, couldn't be blocked most of the game and despite a 99-degree heat index his motor never stopped. He was often in the face of the quarterback and he always seemed to be near the ball carrier.
Highland hasn't produced too many prospects over the years and it's still not clear what Mason's status is, but the Kansas City, Mo., native looked liked a solid D-I prospect on Saturday.
Panky, originally from Columbus, Ohio, is a 6-foot-2, 180-pound ballhawk. Playing safety he was all over the field and was key in those four interceptions with a couple of his own. He'll definitely be a guy to keep an eye on the rest of the 2005 season.