Kent Keith says he never wants to speak last again. At the annual Jayhawk Conference media day, the coaches were introduced in order of their selection in the preseason poll, and the Pirates, who enter the season winless since the last regular-season game of the 1998 season, were selected to finish last in the eight-team conference.

Keith, the Pirates' new coach, understands being selected last, but he doesn't like it.

"Hopefully this is the first and last time I'll have to speak last," Keith said, "but right now, I'm just proud to be in the conference and have an opportunity to compete against the other teams and improve ourselves."

Keith, who came to Independence after coaching at Tabor (Kan.) College, has done things to try to put the past behind the Pirates.

"We've got brand new uniforms, we're changing the colors up a little bit, a new logo," Keith said. "Just little things to let the kids feel good about themselves."

There will be plenty of new players, with just seven returning players on the roster, four of them starters. But talk about new. Of those four, three will be playing different positions than they played a year ago.

Anthony Chambers (6-1, 200) has been moved from starting quarterback to wide receiver, joining returner Steve Brown (6-4, 220). Last year's starting tailback, Marcus Whitmore (6-1, 220), will move to linebacker, while honorable mention all-conference nose guard Levangalis Beasley (6-1, 265) has been switched to defensive end.

Sophomore Lucas Lanning will battle freshmen Caleb King (6-5, 200), who threw for over 1,700 yards as a senior, and Forrest Maize, a transfer from Panhandle State (Okla.).

Whoever gains the starting nod at QB had better have their arm warmed up.

"Independence traditionally has been an option-type team," Keith said. "We're going to throw the football, try to make things happen."

The lone running back is expected to be redshirt freshman Ray Pruitt (5-9, 190).

Defensively, the Pirates will line up in a 4-4 front. Whitmore and Beasley, along with returning strong safety Reshawn Harvey (6-3, 215), are expected to be the leaders on defense, while Keith is excited about freshman cornerback Eric Fuller (6-1, 180) and redshirt freshman free safety  LeUndo Adams (6-2, 220).

Everything's new at Independence this season. Keith is counting on it.

"We have a new philosophy at Independence. We're no longer going to put up with thugs, so we laid down the law from the start," Keith said. "Some of the kids didn't buy into what we're trying to do, and that's fine because we're starting from scratch. We haven't won a ballgame in two years. We're going to do it the right way, and if it takes some time to build it, so be it."

Independence schedule

Sept. 1 Hutchinson
Sept. 8 at Dodge City
Sept. 15 Coffeyville
Sept. 22 at Fort Scott
Sept. 29 Garden City
Oct. 4 (Thurs.) at Haskell J.V.
Oct. 13  Butler County
Oct. 20  at Highland


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