The Fort Myers Green Wave missed the playoffs last season for the first time in 14 years. For a school that boasts both a proud history and deep traditions, missing the playoffs came as a shock to the community, the coaches and the players, all of whom are looking to get back to their winning ways.
Wave coach Sam Sirianni Jr. said his guys have been working extremely hard to get back to their motto: "Tradition Never Graduates."
"These kids had never felt that type of season we had last year. It was a shock," Sirianni said, "but they understand the goal of getting better and getting back to the playoffs. They take a lot of pride in what they do. They want to right the ship. They want to be part of history."
Injuries plagued the Green Wave early in 2009, though Sirianni was quick to point out injuries were not the reason for their 3-7 record. Eight starters missed most, if not all, the season on both sides of the ball. Ten sophomores were culled from the JV squad to fill those slots at various times.
The experience gained was invaluable, but it still didn't take away from the sting of several starters being sidelined for the year.
"We simply could not withstand the injuries," Sirianni said.
One of the most damaging injuries was to starting wideout and Division 1 prospect James Whitfield, who tore his ACL and missed nearly the entire season.
Whitfield's recovery is ahead of schedule and Sirianni said he should be ready to go when the Green Wave open the season Sept. 3 at Cypress Lake.
Whitfield did not participate in spring practice and has been kept out of all full contact drills this fall.
He is practicing at full speed and Sirianni said he is "100 percent" ready to play. When he does take the field, it will be almost 11 months since he last played football.
"I'll take James Whitfield over any wide receiver and not trade him for anybody," Sirianni said. "He will play in the season opener."
Two quarterbacks are in competition for the starting job, though Sirianni would not commit to naming the starter. Senior T.J. Nelson and sophomore T.J. Douglas both have a handle on the offense.
The Wave, for years a traditional run-first smash-mouth team, will be more balanced this season, Sirianni said, because of the strength of the two guys competing at quarterback.
The road to redemption begins at Cypress Lake where the Wave face a team looking for its own redemption for finishing 1-9 last season.
Sirianni thinks the Wave are a young team, but are prepared to live up to the pressure of the Green Wave history.
"We're expected to field a quality team year in and year out," Sirianni said. "We won't make any excuses for last year, we just didn't get it done."
Fort Myers High School Green Wave
Sept. 3 - at Cypress Lake
Sept. 10 - vs. Cape Coral
Sept. 16 - at Dunbar
Sept. 24 - at North Fort Myers-x
Oct. 1 - vs. Charlotte
Oct. 8 - vs. Riverdale-x
Oct. 15 - vs. Estero
Oct. 22 - at South Fort Myers-x
Oct. 29 - at Mariner-x
Nov. 5 - vs. Bishop Verot-x
Head Coach: Sam Sirianni, Jr., eighth year (57-31).
Assistants: Frank Sirianni (def. coordinator), Don Weekley (off. line), Greg Martin (LB), Fred Theier (DB/RB), Nick Caserio (DB), John Schwochow (DE/RB), Richie Rode (QB), Chad Terrell (LB), Erich Ladwig (receivers).
Team Colors: Kelly green & white
Stadium: Edison Stadium, 2635 Cortez Blvd., Fort Myers
Playoff History: 1975 - Haines City 8, Fort Myers 7 (OT); 1977 - St. Petersburg Catholic 26, Fort Myers 12; 1987 - Bradenton Southeast 24, Fort Myers 21; 1988 - Bradenton Southeast 35, Fort Myers 7; 1991 - Fort Myers 24, Bradenton Southeast 15; Fort Myers 48, Largo 7 (Regionals); St. Thomas Aquinas 17, Fort Myers 0 (Sectionals); 1992 - Fort Myers 30, Bradenton Southeast 7; Fort Myers 35, Kathleen 7 (Regionals); St. Thomas Aquinas 28, Fort Myers 0; 1995 - Sarasota 31, Fort Myers 24 (2 OT); 1996 - Sarasota 21, Fort Myers 20 (OT); 1997 - Fort Pierce Central 44, Fort Myers 28; 1998 - Fort Myers 41, Palm Beach Gardens 0; St. Thomas Aquinas 24, Fort Myers 10; 1999 - Fort Myers 14, Hallandale 5; Fort Myers 54, Jupiter 13; St. Thomas Aquinas 41, Fort Myers 14; 2000 - Fort Myers 28, South Fork 10; Fort Myers 41, Centennial 17; St. Thomas Aquinas 41, Fort Myers 6; 2001 - Fort Myers 48, Ft. Lauderdale 8; St. Thomas Aquinas 21, Fort Myers 7; 2002 -Lakewood Ranch 18, Ft. Myers 17. 2003 - Ft. Myers 36, Charlotte 19; Armwood 20, Ft. Myers 12. 2004 - Ft. Myers 18, Bradenton Bayshore 7; Tampa Middleton 17, Ft. Myers 14 (OT). 2005 - Venice 28, Fort Myers 0. 2006 - Bradenton Manatee 28, Ft. Myers 7. 2007 - Bradenton Manatee 31, Ft. Myers 28; 2008 - Charlotte 41, Ft. Myers 7.
Home: 2-3 Away: 1-4 District 1-4
Ft. Myers 41, Cypress Lake 20
Cape Coral 26, Ft. Myers 13
Dunbar 31, Ft. Myers 7
Ft. Myers 12, North Fort Myers 7
Charlotte 56, Ft. Myers 6
Riverdale 35, Ft. Myers 0
Ft. Myers 31, Estero 11
South Fort Myers 34, Fort Myers 0
Mariner 7, Fort Myers 0
Bishop Verot 19, Fort Myers 14