They may be a young group, but North Fort Myers football coach Barry Goettemoeller expects his team to play the same smashmouth football his teams historically have been known for.
Last season's 3-7 record, including five straight losses to finish the season, left a bad taste in everyone's mouth, and a loss in the spring game only reinforced that feeling.
Goettemoeller believes his Red Knights, which is returning just 12 of 22 starters, can overcome with team chemistry and a blue-collar attitude.
North Fort Myers senior Terrell Neal (8) and his Red Knight teammates start the regular season at home against the Cape Coral Seahawks.
"We had four freshmen play varsity and fill roles last season. A number of the games were close. We just didn't put it together," Goettemoeller said. "The young guys are working hard to fill the shoes of those who left us."
Defensive stalwarts Rob Forville, (quarterback) Zane LaPaugh and three-year lineman Brandon Crouch will be missed, but there are plenty of kids who can make a difference.
Sophomore quarterback Brandon Makar will take control of the team. Goettemoeller, who started the then-freshman in the spring game, believes he has a bright future.
Makar knows the pressure, but also knows his team is behind him.
"There's stress that comes with the position, but I have teammates who don't stress me because they always have my back," Makar said.
Running backs Johnny Garrow, who started as a freshman last season, and Terrell Neal, a senior transfer, and receiver Roy Densen, another sophomore, will give the Red Knights offense a new look.
The strength of the team may be on the offensive line, where senior Steven Mercado, a three-year starter at center, Will Ziegler and Cesar Bacares hope to deliver more than three yards and a cloud of dust.
"We need to start working as a family instead of as individuals," Bacares said. "We have a better offensive line coming in with Steve and Will."
The 4-3 defense will be led by senior linebacker Aaron Alcorn, one of the leaders in the weight room, and Skylar Saxton, a physical force in the middle.
Goettemoeller hopes Densen and Neal can pick up the slack for those who left.
"We're working harder in practice and working harder as a team," Alcorn said. "The defense looks good and we have lots of young guys who can play."
The team also hopes better chemistry and a family atmosphere can give them an edge.
"After the spring, the team grew closer. We may not have the same athletes, but we have the chemistry," Makar said. "It's as simple as just saying hi to each other."
Moving into District 6A-11, the Red Knights have their share of tough opponents. They open the season Sept. 2 against Cape Coral and start district play against Island Coast.
"We're excited about the competition and ready to step up to the challenge," Goettemoeller said.
"The district will be a challenge we have to overcome and show who North Fort Myers is," Bacares said.
No matter who they play, Goettemoeller understands it will take more than talent to win.
"The young guys are focused and driven. We have talented guys who can help us win a championship," Goettemoeller said. "Our philosophy will continue to be the toughness, discipline and effort North Fort Myers has brought for years."
North Fort Myers Red Knights
Sept. 2 - vs. Cape Coral
Sept 9 - at Mariner
Sept. 16 - vs. Estero
Sept. 23 - at Island Coast-x
Sept. 30 - vs. South Fort Myers-x
Oct. 6 - at Dunbar
Oct. 14 - vs. Ida Baker-x
Oct. 21 - vs. Fort Myers-x
Oct. 28 - at Bishop Verot-x
Nov. 4 - at Riverdale-x
Head coach: Barry Goettemoeller, 4th year (12-18)
Assistants: Richard Roudybush (off. coord./off. linemen), Matthew Nero (def. coord./linebackers), Mike Duff (WR), Ron Lillard (def. linemen), Jose Santiago (RB), Joe Richardson DB).
Team Colors: red, white & black
Stadium: Moody Field, 5000 Orange Grove Blvd., North Fort Myers
Playoff History: 1972 - North 41, Tarpon Springs 22; Glades Central 6, North 3 (Semifinals); 1983 - North 26, East Bay 14; Atlantic 6, North 0 (Semifinals); 1985 - Bradenton Southeast 31, North 9; 1986 - North 20, Bradenton Southeast 7; North 35, Fort Pierce Central 21; Fort Lauderdale Dillard 25, North 6 (Sectionals); 1994 - North 20, Jupiter 13; North 50, Jefferson 32; St. Thomas Aquinas 24, North 12 (Semifinals); 1997 - Sarasota Booker 41, North 7; 1998 - DeSoto 28, North 7; 1999 - Ft. Pierce Westwood 34, North 15; 2000 - Cardinal Gibbons 28, North 21. 2006 - North 38, Lakewood Ranch 14; North 23, Largo 19; Bradenton Manatee 20, North 14.
Home: 2-3 Away: 1-4 District: 1-4
Island Coast 38, North 0
North 13, Ida Baker 0
Cape Coral 35, North 15
North 14, Fort Myers 13
North 16, Estero 8
South Fort Myers 34, North 0
North Port 28, North 7
Mariner 30, North 16
Bishop Verot 25, North 7
Riverdale 13, North 3