Entering his first season as head coach at Gateway Charter, Ken Knapczyk hopes to bring a new attitude and energy to the program.
The Griffins are a team in dire need of change, going winless each of the past two seasons.
"It's been a while since these kids have seen some success," said Knapczyk. "Once they get a taste of success, it's only going to bring more success."
Leading the young Griffins on offense is junior captain Mitchell Ferrer at quarterback. Ferrer spent the spring and summer learning the team's new spread offense, and has stepped up as one of the team leaders.
"Mitchell has remarkable leadership for someone his age," Knapczyk said. "He is like a coach, he gets after the other players when they need it and he loves them up when they need it."
Returning to the backfield is junior running Sean Ohomdson, who is being counted on to have a much better season in the team's new offense. Sharing carries with Ohomdson is senior Isaiah Nance, who also will start as the team's slot receiver.
Griffins receivers include a pair of seniors, Brendan O'Brien and captain Kristoffe McCrae. McCrae is a returning starter and brings senior leadership to a team consisting mostly of juniors and sophomores.
The lone returning starter on the offensive line is junior Josh Frazier, who will line up at either right or left tackle,and has been one of the more impressive players in through the summer workouts.
A pair of cousins will patrol the middle of the defense, and could be the anchor of the defense for years to come. Captain Medgar Dunkley is a junior and starts at inside linebacker. Sophomore Nick Dunkley-Allen is one of the outside linebackers. Frazier also will start at defensive tackle. Senior Cory Cavalli returns at defensive end.
Junior free safety Ronnie Tape will patrol the secondary. Tape is one of the key players Knapczyk is excited to see play.
"Ronnie is a really aggressive player, and he really likes to hit," says Knapczyk.
The Griffins will carry about 35 players on the varsity roster, meaning many will have to play both ways.
"Our players are ready to play both ways, but it is crucial that the backups be ready to step in for a series or two to give the starters a couple plays off," says Knapczyk.
Knapczyk believes the Griffins have gelled and become a very close unit throughout spring and summer workouts. He and his coaching staff have stressed handling adversity as a key to a more successful season.
With the current losing streak at 26 games, the Griffins have seen plenty of adversity.
"One win is not success, it is not our goal to end this streak," said Knapczyk. "We know we can win several games. Once we get one win more will come."
The Griffins open the season Sept. 2 at Westminster Academy.
Sept. 2 - at Westminster Academy
Sept. 9 - vs. Lemon Bay
Sept. 23 - at Clewiston
Sept. 30 - vs. Lake Placid-x
Oct. 6 - vs. LaBelle-x
Oct. 14 - at St. John Neumann
Oct. 20 - vs. Dunbar-x
Nov. 4 - at Avon Park-x
Nov. 11 - vs. SWF Christian
Head coach: Ken Knapczyk ('11), first year
Assistants: Fred Dennen )def. coord.), Matt Emans (off. coord.), Mike Fischer (off. line), Glenn Maiolini (RB), John Diel (QB/LB), Peter Caberra (def. line), Derrick Woods (DB).
Team Colors: Royal Blue & Silver
Stadium: 12770 Gateway Blvd., Fort Myers (also using Buckingham Community Park)
Playoff History: none.
Home: 0-5 Away: 0-5 District: 0-5
Lemon Bay 40, Gateway 19
Frostproof 52, Gateway 6
Golden Gate 56, Gateway 0
Dunbar 57, Gateway 12
Clewiston 60, Gateway 0
Coral Springs Charter 42, Gateway 0
LaBelle 27, Gateway 8
Island Coast 58, Gateway 0
Lake Placid 60, Gateway 0
Evangelical Christian 55, Gateway 0