CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CHARLOTTE SPORTS LIVE) – Independence High School.

It has a rich championship tradition that once reached national status.

After some recent lean years for the Patriots, DJ McFadden has some big things cooking up at Big I.

“When I interviewed here, I had a 32-page manual that I gave the school,” said Independence head football coach DJ McFadden. “Year 2, I had ‘Make the playoffs, host a playoff game, and win two games.’ We’ve done that in year two. We’re right where I thought we would be.”​

McFadden knows all too well how great this program can be.

He was the starting quarterback for the Patriots in the mid-2000s and led Independence to the final two state titles during a run that saw the program win seven straight championships and 109 games in a row.

Now he has a young bunch of Patriots back in the third round of the postseason for the first time since 2009.

“We’ve got seniors who have never been in the playoffs before, and now their first time in the playoffs, these guys are playing out of their minds right now,” said McFadden. “They’re doing exactly what we ask them to do, and it’s gotten them to the third round.”

Though the Patriots have a senior-laden squad, their sophomore signal-caller is the engine that makes things go. Justin Little’s play on the field this season has been anything but. Over 3300 yards of total offense and 38 scores for the 15-year-old.

McFadden sees the same potential in Little that his coaches saw in him back in the day but knows he needs one thing, a ring.

“He has to keep winning,” McFadden said of Little. “That’s the standard around here; if you want to be remembered playing quarterback around here, you got to get you one. Until he does that, he won’t get too much credit from me, but he’s been great all year long, and he’s playing his best ball right now.”

“Yeah, he’s on me a lot,” said Independence sophomore quarterback Justin Little. “He always says he’s better than me, and I’m not going to be better than him, but I’ll be there at some point.”

The Patriots’ next step towards a ring will send them on the road. Independence will head up to Greensboro to face Grimsley, the team who knocked out Charlotte Catholic, the lone squad to beat Independence this year.

A classic case of the enemy of my enemy is my friend; however, there won’t be any love lost when the Patriots and Whirlies meet in the Triad on Friday.