Aug. 31 at Cape Coral-Oasis 7 p.m.
Sept. 6 at Evangelical Christian JV 6 p.m.
Sept. 12 St. John Neumann JV 6 p.m.
Sept. 20 Evangelical Christian JV 6 p.m.
Sept. 28 North Port-Imagine School 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 5 Deerfield Beach-Zion Lutheran Christian 7 p.m.
Oct. 10 at St. John Neumann JV 6 p.m.
Oct. 26 at Gateway Charter 7 p.m.
Nov. 2 Miami-Solid Rock Christian Academy 7 p.m.
Nov. 9 at First Baptist Academy 7:30 p.m.
MARCO ISLAND — Marco Island Academy’s Andy Delgado knows the difficulties of starting an athletic program.
Last spring he became the first coach for the new school’s baseball team. This fall he is the first coach for the second-year school’s football team. The Manta Rays travel to Cape Coral-Oasis for a 7 p.m. game on Friday.
Just 13 of the team’s 26 players had ever played football before the Manta Rays’ 45-6 loss at Bradenton-St. Stephen’s in Friday’s preseason game.
“Many of the kids that played on the baseball team are on the football team,” Delgado said. “They know it takes time to build a good team, to have a strong program.”
Sophomore Thomas Nugent played on the MIA baseball team.
“I expect it will be the same as baseball, we’ll start out tough and get better with time,” Nugent said. “I’m really excited.”
Sophomore Peter Servente has participated on the school’s first cross country, basketball, baseball and now football teams.
“It means a lot to represent your school,” he said.
Newcomer to the team is Lely transfer Jared Jackson, who also is expected to play for the Marco basketball team.
It was Jackson’s jarring tackle that forced a St. Stephen’s runner to cough up the football, allowing Preston Reese to take it in stride for the school’s first score on a 55-yard return.
“Jared has a lot of skills and makes decisions on the fly,” Delgado said. “Preston has very good speed and will develop on offense and defense.”
Delgado credited Miles Carlisle, Reese and Servente for playing well on defense.
The offense recorded few yards as it was overwhelmed by a bigger, stronger and more experienced defense.
Delgado said the coaches and team learned more about themselves in that first game.
“The team now knows what it takes to play four quarters and the coaches know that we need to simplify the offense to have fewer plays, but to execute better,” Delgado said.
The school added an 11th grade this fall, but it only garnered two athletes to try football.
There’s no coaching philosophy discussed, it’s more about acceptance and patience.
“The biggest success so far is the kids’ attitude,” Delgado said. “They want to get better.”
While high school teams have numerous coaches, it’s Delgado running the offense with Chris Burt guiding the defense and Eddie Kirst the special teams.
The young school doesn’t have the finances to allow for a large number of coaches who could specialize more.
Of its 10 games, six are against varsity teams, which will allow the Academy to apply to be designated as a Class 1A school by the Florida High School Athletic Association.
The Academy will play St. John Neumann and Evangelical Christian JV teams twice each.
The Manta Rays host St. John Neumann at 6 p.m. on Sept. 12 and visit the Celtics for a 6 p.m. game on Oct. 10.
“We will be more competitive against those teams,” Delgado said.
Delgado does use the baseball team as an analogy on how the football team will progress.
“The first game of the season a team beat us 21-2. At the end of the season they beat us in extra innings,” Delgado said. “Looking down, the road three to four years, we want to be respected, to be known as a good football team.”