Maintaining their four-year streak of appearing in the state playoffs could be a challenge for the Cape Coral Seahawks, who were 10-2 and a regional semifinalist last season.
Gone are 30 players who had a hand in winning 21 of 24 games over the past two seasons. If any area team deserves the tag of starting over, it is the Seahawks.
"We only have one returning starter on defense," said Seahawks coach Brad Metheny, "and only four back on offense."
Cape High lineman David Martin negotiates a low angle blocking drill in an early preseason workout.
Senior T.J. Giles fills one slot on both units - defensive back and wide receiver. Kyle Young, a three-year starter, and George Ocasio, a two-year starter, fill line slots while senior Dustin Thibadeau returns to the backfield.
The rest of the defensive unit will be filled mostly by JV experienced players on the line and in the backfield. Junior Jay Smith is the most experienced lineman among sophomore Sam Hunter, junior Zach Hedberg, and seniors phil Brownson and Ocasio.
"I really don't know what we have yet," said Metheny. "We have to wait and see when we get the pads on."
Linebackers include junior Trey Daniels, sophomore Mario Dominguez, Nevil Berott, Vaughn Calhoun and Dylan Humenay.
The offense falls into the lap of junior quarterback Kurt Benkert (6-foot-3, 185), who transferred to Cape from Maryland and got his first exposure to the Sea-hawks playbook for the spring game.
"He's a great kid, a 4.0 student," said Metheny. "He has learned the system better than he had in the spring."
Thibadeau and Calhoun, a transfer from Cypress Lake, and Bobby Sibert, a transfer from Dunbar, make up the rest of the offensive backfield along with an occasional contribution from Zadarian White.
As many as 10 players could see time at receiver positions, headed by Giles. Most of the plays likely will come from juniors Rashaan Gaymon, Ian Maccallum, Kyle Fischl and probably Sibert.
The Seahawks have a completely new set of district rivals, thanks to the FHSAA's two-year reassignment plan. They are grouped with East Lee County, Lehigh, Cypress Lake, Estero and Mariner in District 5A-11 for the next two years.
"It's a very difficult schedule," said Metheny. "We only have four home games. The last half of the schedule is brutal and we have rivalries with North Fort Myers in the opener and Ida Baker and two district games in the first half. We gotta come in ready to play."
The Seahawks indeed must be ready to play right with the season-opening kickoff at rival North Fort Myers on Sept. 2, followed by spring game opponent and rival Ida Baker in the home opener on Sept. 9.
The first district game is Sept. 23 against Cypress Lake.
Cape Coral Seahawks
Sept. 2 - at North Fort Myers
Sept. 9 - vs. Ida Baker
Sept. 19 - at Naples Lely
Sept. 23 - vs. Cypress Lake-x
Oct. 6 - vs. Estero-x
Oct. 14 - at Immokalee
Oct. 21 - at Mariner-x
Oct. 28 - vs. Lehigh-x
Nov. 4 - at East Lee County-x
Nov. 11 - at Island Coast
Head Coach: Brad Metheny ('10), 2nd year (10-2)
Assistants: Rod Jamison (def. coord.), Tyler Zebkar (OL), Mike Brigandi (OL), Larry Gary (LB), Jim Bruni (secondary), Steve Caiazzo (RB), Rick Upchurch (WR).
Team Colors: Orange and Blue
Stadium: Dave Warkentin Field, 2300 Santa Barbara Blvd.
Playoff History: 1980 - Venice 32, Cape Coral 6; 1993 - Cape Coral 10, Jupiter 0; Cape Coral 34, Auburndale 20; Deerfield Beach 12, Cape Coral 10 (Semifinals). 2005 - Bradenton Manatee 27, Cape Coral 20. 2007 - Cape Coral 27, Venice 10; Cape Coral 31, Manatee 28; Largo 28, Cape Coral 13. 2008 - Venice 35, Cape Coral 14. 2009 - Cape Coral 27, Lakewood Ranch 0; Charlotte 24, Cape Coral 16. 2010 - Cape Coral 23, Palmetto 3; Charlotte 7, Cape Coral 0.
Home: 5-1 Away: 5-1 District: 3-0
Cape 56, Mariner 14
Cape 29, Fort Myers 8
Cape 35, North Fort Myers 15
Cape 38, Port Charlotte 24
Cape 49, Palmetto Ridge 21
Island Coast 21, Cape 11
Cape 44, Gulf Coast 14
Cape 8, South Fork 7
Cape 42, Ida Baker 6
Cape 20, Lehigh 0
Cape 23, Palmetto 3
Charlotte 7, Cape 0