The Evangelical Christian Sentinels finished last season with a regional loss to Out-of-Door Academy and enter the 2010 campaign facing uncertainty after losing most of the offensive starters to graduation.
"Most of our defense is returning," said Sentinels coach Brian Lynch, "(but) we have a mostly newer crew on offense."
Outside of the turnover in personnel on the offensive side of the ball, ECS will have to overcome a size deficiency, too.
Unlike recent years when the Sentinels could boast having several linemen over 6-foot and 240- to 250-pound range, they are fielding a mostly smaller squad this year. All but one player is at or under the 200-pound mark.
"We are very small, comparatively, this year on our front lines," said Lynch. "We have a basketball player that just started playing football seriously. Outside of one kid at 280 we are small ..."
Because they lack size against some, if not most opponents in their district and within their class, ECS must rely on team speed to compensate.
"Our speed is coming together with our skill," Lynch said. "Our interior size only averages 200 pounds or so, but our skill guys are very quick and talented, so we should be able to take advantage of some teams in that regard by having quicker more athletic guys on the outside and at our skill positions."
Despite their youth on offense, the Sentinels will be able to put as many as five offensive threats on the field at any one time.
At quarterback, Tyler Viens is starting his first year under center. The 5-5 sophomore's lack of experience doesn't concern his coach.
"We liked what we saw out of Tyler in the spring game," said Lynch. "We are confident, based on that performance, that he will do well. He understand the offense and is quick to get rid of the ball."
On defense, three key starters return for the Sentinels.
Defensive tackles Jarod Todd, Joseph Hartmann and Derrick Patrick all are back to anchor the unit with another year of experience under their belts.
The key for the Sentinels, and Lynch, is managing the youth forced to play on the offensive side of the ball and working around their obvious size deficiency.
"The key to our success will be in speed. If we are going to win games that is how it is going to have to happen," said Lynch.
The Sentinels open the season on Sept. 3 at Bishop Verot.
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