A tough schedule and several close losses produced a 2-8 record for the East Lee County Jaguars last season. After graduating 24 seniors from that squad, coach Scott Jones knows he must rebuild in his third season with the Jaguars.
"We are going to have a whole new offense and a whole new defense this year," Jones said. "There is going to be a lot of learning going on in the next few weeks."
Adding to the difficulty of rebuilding is taking on a schedule Jones believes is even tougher this season. The Jaguars play in one of the tougher districts - 3A-12 - as well as face nondistrict foes Dunbar, Riverdale, South Fort Myers and Lakewood Ranch, all of which made the playoffs last season.
Offensively, the Jaguars have to replace the output of running back James Holland, who led the team in rushing yards and touchdowns last season. Ready to step in is senior Kyandre Smith, who was second to Holland with 714 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
Smith is being looked at by several universities from the Big Ten and Big East conferences, according to Jones.
Also returning is quarterback Marcus Simmons, who started last season as a junior, throwing for three touchdowns with only one interception, and passing for 244 yards. Simmons also ran for 460 yards and three TDs.
The biggest position battles are along the offensive line, where the Jaguars bring back just one starter, Corey Whittle, from last year's unit. The rest of the starting offensive line will be decided in final week of practice. Jones hopes freshman Winford Ward, who will start at wide receiver, will bring some big plays to the passing attack.
The biggest thing the Jaguars are looking to improve upon this season is team defense, which allowed 31 points per game last year.
"We have to improve that, we cannot give up that many points," Jones said.
The lone returning defensive starter is senior strong safety Terrell Davis, who was second on the team in tackles with 75 and led in interceptions. Joining Davis in the defensive backfield is Pierre Raymond, who will be the top cornerback.
Anchoring the Jaguars' front seven are linemen Joe Epps and Jerrick Marks, both seniors.
The Jaguars attempted to use 11 different starters on both offense and defense in the spring, which Jones said did not work out. After that experiment and fewer players out for the team, the Jaguars are reverting back to the use of two-way starters.
Jones believes the Jaguars may have as many as seven players start on both sides of the ball.
"I'm not worried about their conditioning, I'm just worried if they can do it," Jones said.
Teamwork could be the Jaguars' biggest strength.
"The goal is to make the playoffs every year and that's what we will try to do," said Jones.
East Lee County High School Jaguars
Sept. 3 - vs. Riverdale
Sept. 10 - at South Fort Myers
Setp. 17 - at Lakewood Ranch
Sept. 24 - at Naples-x
Oct. 1 - at Barron Collier-x
Oct. 8 - vs. Lely-x
Oct. 15 - at Lehigh-x
Oct. 22 - vs. Golden Gate-x
Oct. 29 - vs. Cypress Lake-x
Nov. 12 - vs. Dunbar
Head Coach: Scott Jones, third year (6-14)
Assistants: Dave Smith (def. coord.), Chris Ernst (QBs), Winford Ward (secondary), Tony Sigmen (off. line), Tom and Doug Faase (freshmen), Evan Pounders (defense), Eric Crawford (LB), Derrick Ransom (secondary).
Team Colors: Aqua, black & silver
Stadium: East Lee County High School, 715 Thomas, Lehigh Acres.
Class/District: 3A-12 (first varsity season '07)
Playoff History: none.
Home: 0-5 Away: 2-3 District 2-4
Riverdale 48, East Lee 0
South Fort Myers 42, East Lee 31
Lakewood Ranch 23, East Lee 20
Naples 33, East Lee 0
Barron Collier 34, East Lee 6
Naples Lely 34, East Lee 3
Lehigh 21, East Lee 14
East Lee 40, Golden Gate 14
East Lee 21, Cypress Lake 0
Dunbar 43, East Lee 23