When South Fort Myers High School opened, many in the region figured having one of the top football programs in the area was only a matter of time.
Fast forward six years and that prophecy is coming true.
In 2009, the Wolfpack (9-2) was widely considered one of the favorites to make a deep run in the Class 3A playoffs. A surprise upset loss to Lehigh prematurely derailed those plans, and left a sour taste in their mouths.
That loss was a valuable learning lesson for coach Grant Redhead and the players, who were favored to beat Lehigh by double digits in that regional quarterfinal contest.
"The team realizes that we have to prepare for every game," said Redhead. "Even with the teams who haven't won (a lot) in the recent past, you can't let your kids take those teams lightly. You have to keep your focus on each game as it comes."
The bottom line is no matter how it looks on paper, no matter what the pundits say, anybody in the state can beat you if you don't prepare. You can't have any letdowns.
Wolfpack fans have good reasons to expect a much deeper playoff run this season. The best offense in the region should only be better with the return of quarterback Dallas Crawford (25 TDs, 8 INTs), who led the region in passing yards last year and the return of his favorite target, Sammy Watkins, who caught 14 of those TD passes. Watkins averaged more than 108 yards a game last season.
If South has any noticeable weakness, it's on the defensive side of the ball, particularly in the interior lines where it is forced to utilize players on both sides of the ball.
The Wolfpack should get stronger line play this year with the return of Luke Smith as that unit's leader. Defensive end D.J. Fabor and linebacker Anthony Debonis return as team leaders with another year of experience under their belts.
Despite the return of so much high-powered talent, Redhead refuses to see things the way fans are sure to see it.
"I don't have any extra expectations on this year's team compared to last year's or other years," Redhead said. "I'm not going to put the cart before the horse, so to speak. I won't let the kids read any of the press clippings and let any of that get into their heads.
"This year is going to be no different than any other as any of that is concerned. I'm placing no higher expectations on them because of last year."
The Wolfpack begin their quest for a return to the district championship hunt and regional playoffs on Sept. 3 when they visit Estero.
Evangelical Christian School Sentinels
Sept 3 - at Bishop Verot
Sept. 10 - vs. LaBelle
Sept. 24 - vs. Moore Haven-x
Oct. 1 - vs. First Baptist Academy
Oct. 8 - vs. Out-of-Door Academy-x
Oct. 15 - at SWF Christian-x
Oct. 21 - at Community School of Naples
Oct. 22 - at St. Stephen's Episcopal-x
Oct. 29 - vs. Bradenton Christian-x
Nov. 5 - at St. John Neumann-x
Nov. 12 - at Gateway Charter
Head Coach: Brian Lynch, eighth year (41-34).
Assistants: Josh Balanger (def. coord.), Tyler Gold (off. line), Ron Lillard (LB), Jeremy Drake (DB), Britt Foshe (WR)
Team Colors: Red & white
Stadium: 8237 Beacon Boulevard SE, Fort Myers
Playoff History: 2001 - ECS 30, Evangel Christian 6; ECS 52, Keswick Christian 21; Fort Meade 36, ECS 8. 2002 - ECS 20, Admiral Farragut 9; Fort Meade 13, ECS 8. 2003 - ECS 17, Tampa Berkeley Prep 10; Fort Meade 49, ECS 14. 2004 - ECS 28, St. Pete Northside Christian 9; Fort Meade 27, ECS 6. 2005 - Fort Meade 21, ECS 14. 2009 - ECS 38, Lakeland Victory Christian 31; Out-of-Door Academy 32, ECS 18.
Home: 5-0 Away: 4-3 District: 5-1
ECS 28, Bishop Verot 24
ECS 34, LaBelle 20
ECS 63, Moore Haven 6
ECS 66, Gateway Charter 0
Out-of-Door Academy 39, ECS 28
ECS 53, Southwest Florida Christian 7
ECS 48, St. Stepehn's Episcopal 14
ECS 28, Bradenton Christian 7
ECS 43, St. John Neumann 35
Ft. Laud. Calvary Christian 49, ECS 46
ECS 38, Lakeland Victory Christian 31
Out-of-Door Acad. 32, ECS 18