Football 2010: First Baptist
After nearly doubling in roster size, FBA ...
Football 2010: Community School
CSN gets its first season of football ...
Football 2010: South Fort Myers
Crawford & Watkins in senior year
Football 2010: Estero
Wildcats looking for more than one win
NAPLES — Though teenagers typically abhor waking up early, hundreds of Southwest Florida high-schoolers won't have a problem rising with the sun this morning.
Starting as early as 7 a.m. in Collier County, football players trotted onto fields throughout the state today for the official start of the 2010 season. Today, 25 days before the first regular season game, is the first day the Florida High School Athletic Association allows teams to begin practicing.
Lely and Palmetto Ridge were the first area teams to start the action when they hit the field at 7 a.m. By late afternoon, all 12 teams in the Daily News coverage area had kicked off preseason practices.
South Fort Myers, which reached the 3A regional semifinals last year, started with one of its stars, and without another.
When the players at Community School started their first fall practice at 4 p.m., they made up Collier's 10th high school football team.
There were just eight schools with football a year ago, but this is the second straight year that number has increased.
First Baptist started its program last season with surprising success. The Lions went 4-5. Community School hopes for similar success in its inaugural football season.
While the FHSAA doesn't limit practice time (some teams have been known to go three times a day), the organization does limit contact this first week. Teams must practice three times without pads, only helmets, before going full equipment, full contact on the fourth day.
Here are reports filed by our staff and correspondents so far:
* * *
Mark Ivey is typically a positive guy, but the Cougars coach was especially upbeat following the first practice of the season.
The Cougars spent nearly three hours on the field, going over technique and fundamentals. Though the practice wasn't anything elaborate, Ivey still came away impressed.
“It was their attitude,” said the fourth-year Cougars coach. “The kids came to work. We had a good, long day. Nobody complained. They just worked to try to get better.”
Barron Collier had 82 varsity and varsity players on the field Monday. Ivey expects to have one morning practice a day the remainder of the week.
One of the Cougars' focuses during preseason practice is learning the new defense installed by Dan Pallanta. Pallanta joined the team as its new defensive coordinator in the spring, replacing Johnny Smith. Smith left after three seasons at Barron Collier to move to Michigan.
Ivey said the new defense isn't one particular set or scheme. Rather the defense can be run out of several sets with the same players.
“It allows us to play multiple fronts,” Ivey said. “At times we'll look like a 4-3. We'll look like a 52 (defense) at other times, all from the same personnel. It has different formations and alignments.”
* * *
The Wildcats opened practice Monday with 95 players in attendance, the most for the start of a fall camp during the three-year tenure of Estero coach Rich Dombroski.
“We averaged 87 kids per day during the summer conditioning sessions, so we’re very happy with the numbers today,” Dombroski said. “We have a few kids that couldn’t make it today, so hopefully that number will be even higher tomorrow.”
The Wildcats' numbers for the upcoming season have been boosted by over 40 incoming freshmen, a positive sign as Dombroski looks to change the culture of Estero football.
“We have 27 freshmen from last year’s team that are back as sophomores,” Dombroski said. “That’s what we’re looking for. We want to retain at least 25 each year so we can keep the number of players in the program around 100.”
-- Woody Wommack
* * *
First Baptist Academy
Football camp’s running a lot smoother the second time around for First Baptist Academy.
The program enters its second season coming off a 4-5 record in 2009. Unlike last season, coach Billy Sparacio can focus on getting his team ready to play, instead of how to play, as was the case a year ago.
“It’s great because we don’t have to take such baby steps,” Sparacio said. “They understand what the expectations are as far as our practice goes, the effort we’re looking for, the tempo of practice, all those things.”
Sparacio said last year he had to teach the kids things that onlookers might take for granted, such as how to line up, basic formations and basic coverages.
“They’re a year older … we’re getting better and better. It’s exciting,” he said.
At this point in camp Sparacio is focusing on installing plays, coverages and packages little by little, while looking forward to opening the season against Highlands Christian Academy.
“We’re just trying to be 1-0,” he said.
-- Joe Ragazzo
* * *
The Titans have added substantial coaching experience to their ranks for this season. As the team hit the weights and participated in conditioning drills on Monday, the first day of fall practice, new offensive line coach was adjusting to his surroundings.
Jackson was the head coach at 4A-D7 St. Cloud the past three seasons. While there, he took a perennial loser and turned them into a playoff team, making the post-season the last two years.
In his first season, the Bulldogs went 3-7. In the two years after, St. Cloud went 9-2 and 7-5 respectively.
-- Scott Clair
* * *
Sharks coach Andrew Miranti said Monday's practice was an extension of the hard work the team put in over the summer.
Though this fall will be Miranti's first as a head coach, he was an assistant at Gulf Coast the past seven seasons. He said he saw the Sharks work harder this offseason than in any other summer he's had with the team.
“It was one of the best summers I've been around,” Miranti said. “(The players) were mentally and physically prepared more than in years past.”
The summer transitioned into an enthusiastic practice session Monday from 78 varsity and junior varsity players. Even though the Sharks started bright and early – a 7 a.m. roll call – and practiced again in the afternoon, Miranti said the players kept the intensity high all day long.
“From the first whistle, they got after it and had good reps,” Miranti said.
Miranti replaces Frank Tudryn, who coached the Sharks for 10 seasons, and died following a battle with cancer in May. Though there is a new head coach, Miranti said Gulf Coast won't change much on offense or defense because most of the coaching staff is the same.
-- Adam Fisher
* * *
After taking over the Indians in the spring, head coach Jerrod Ackley felt much more comfortable with his team during the first practice of the season Monday.
Ackley, who previously was a head coach in Idaho, said he started forming relationships with his new players during summer workouts. Now that the Indians know him and his system, Ackley is ready to get to work and improve on last year's 4-6 record.
“(The players) have been through this once with me, so they're starting to understand the routine,” said Ackley, a former assistant at Lely. “Over the summer I really got an opportunity to know them more than just a name and a guy you plug into a position. It's a lot easier the second time around.”
While the Indians have gotten used to Ackley, they're just getting to know another coach. Monday was the first time Immokalee players worked with new offensive coordinator Tim Kepple.
Kepple spend 18 years coaching in college, including as an offensive coordinator. He spent the past two seasons at Salve Regina, a Division III university in Rhode Island.
Ackley said Kepple has taught offensive line camps for NFL coaches before and was highly recommended by former Cincinnati Bengals assistant Jim McNally.
“We're very, very lucky to have him,” Ackley said of his new coordinator. “He's a really great technician. We're excited to see how the kids grow under his guidance.”
-- Adam Fisher
* * *
The Trojans will be young this year, but the players think they have potential.
Senior cornerback Makinton Dorleant, who has verbally agreed to play at Wisconsin next fall, said, "Teams shouldn’t underestimate us. We are young, but we have speed and if the underclassmen stay focused we could surprise."
With 4.37 speed for the 40-yard dash, Dorleant will be a threat at wide receiver.
Senior Ben Jean will also play cornerback, running back and handle punting and kickoff duties.
"We will be good as long as our younger teammates step up," Jean said.
Assistant head coach Brian Johnessee knows that first-time starters will be key. The only starter returning in the backfield is blocking back Dennis Bastin. Battling for quarterback are senior Patrick Lane and junior Kit Fowler. Senior Davenson Cyceron and juniors Kervens Beauplan and Hayden Hanscom are all potential starters for the first time.
"Hanscom has been impressive, but has no varsity experience," Johnessee said. "Right now we are concerned about getting our players ready for a very good Chaminade Madonna, a 2B state champion contender."
Lely plays its preseason game at Chaminade on Aug. 27.
-- Roger LaLonde
* * *
Though it was the first practice of the season, Golden Eagles coach Bill Kramer didn't take it easy on his players Monday morning.
Naples spend three hours on the school's baseball field running conditioning drills with about 100 varsity and junior varsity players, while the freshmen practiced on the game field. Kramer said his team had a great summer of training and working out, but said it didn't translate to the field Monday.
“Our coaches and players were really enthusiastic for the first hour,” said Kramer, entering his 13th season with the team. “Just based on this morning, all I can assess is how fit we were and how our mindset was. I think we need to have a different demeanor (Tuesday) morning.”
Naples players train five days a week during the summer, focusing on speed, strength, agility and flexibility. Coaches gave players last week off, but encouraged them to keep training. Kramer said it looked like many didn't when they tired easily Monday morning.
Perhaps Kramer was a little bit harder on his team this August after the Golden Eagles missed the playoffs last year for just the third time in the coach's tenure at Naples.
The Eagles returned to the field in the afternoon for a second practice session focusing more on football work.
-- Adam Fisher
* * *
There were no surprises, only satisfaction, for Bears coach Dan Newbrough on the first day of fall practice.
Nearly every player passed his conditioning test, letting Newbrough know that his team came in prepared and worked hard during the summer.
"The kids showed they are in great shape," said Newbrough, entering his second season at the Bears' helm. "It allows us to focus on the Xs and Os."
All week, as they did today, the Bears will practice twice each day from 7 to 9:30 a.m., and then at 11:15 to 1:15.
Most pleasing to Newbrough is the return of starting quarterback Shad Thebaud.
"Having an experienced quarterback is a huge relief," Newbrough said. "Now we can focus on developing his backup. You can never have enough depth at quarterback.
"Shad brings that leadership aspect. He knows the offense and knows what we want to do."
-- Scott Clair
* * *
St. John Neumann
Optimism wasn’t just a face that coach Steve Howey strapped on for the first day of fall football practice Monday morning. Starting his eighth year at SJN, he confirmed that expectations for the 2010 season are high, and that his Celtics have as many weapons as they’ve had for some time.
“We do, and I think we have more depth that we’ve had,” Howey said following the opening two-hour session. "I think you’re going to see us being a stronger second-half team this year.
“I like what we have out there,” he said. “I’m hoping we can get a few more kids out. We need to be in the 42 to 43 range in order to have a jayvee team.”
There were 31 Celtics on the field for the first workout, and Howey said he expected another six for the 5-to-7 evening session.
With a 26-8 win over Coral Springs Christian in the spring, Howey saw the tools that should allow his team to better last year’s 2-7 record. Junior quarterback Dylan Woods returns, and the offensive line is one of the biggest Neumann has had, anchored by 6-foot-6, 265-pound fourth-year starter Josh Hardy. He doubles as a tackle on defense.
“I think we have to push Josh harder than ever because the rest of the kids look up to him,” Howey said. “If he decides to take a day off, the rest of them will, too.”
With the likes of Garrett Ocana, Andres Alonso and A.J. Maynor in the backfield, the Celtics should have the ground game to offset Woods’ passing.
The tone of the Class 1B-6 chase will be set early. After Neumann’s fall exhibition outing against Golden Gate High on Aug. 27, the Celtics open their regular season on the road the following Friday at district opponent St. Stephen’s Episcopal of Bradenton.
“We have to be ready to come right out of the box early,” Howey said. “St. Stephen’s is good and they beat us last year.”
-- Tom Rife