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Football goes under the lights Friday

August 21, 2012
By JIM LINETTE ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

While Cape Coral and North Fort Myers head outside Lee County for their first feel for hard knocks in preseason fall football games, Mariner, Ida Baker and Island Coast stay at home under those familiar Friday Night Lights.

After three weeks of pushing, shoving, grunting and groaning through hours of practices, teams finally get to put on game uniforms and hit somebody else for a change before adoring family, friends and fans of all ages.

Cape Coral kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday in Collier County at Palmetto Ridge with new head coach Larry Gary calling the shots on the sidelines.

The Seahawks have made postseason appearances in six of the last seven years and have captured back-to-back district championships.

"We have a tradition of winning and I hope I can carry that torch," said Gary. "How are we gonna do? I don't really know. We didn't play all that well last year (6-4)."

North Fort Myers travels to Port Charlotte for a 7:30 kickoff eager to erase from memory last year's 2-8 season. They embark on that endeavor with Brian Makar back as head coach for a second term.

A total of five schools open the season with new head coaches in charge, including Jeff Brady at Oasis, Dale More at Cypress Lake and Nate Sund at Lehigh. Brady, a former NFL player, is ushering in the switch to the 11-man game after two seasons of playing six-man football.

Around the Cape, Mariner hosts DeSoto County, Island Coast hosts Lehigh and Ida Baker hosts Dunbar. Bishop Verot, on the other hand, takes a short trip to Cypress Lake.

The Tritons are hoping a new pro-style offensive scheme installed by former pro and college head coach Mike Kelly pays dividends - big time.

"We're trying to turn a corner with this program," said Tritons coach Chris Siner. "We're getting there. It's a process. Ultimately we'd like to win our district and go on to the playoffs, but a more attainable goal would be for us to improve our record and be at .500 for the season."

At run-happy Island Coast, the arrival of Cape High QB transfer Kurt Benkert and his 2,700 yards passing may force the Gators to air it out for a change.

"Since 2008, we've thrown the ball 61 times," said Gators coach Joe Bowen. "One commentator said Kurt Benkert threw more times in September last year than we've thrown in our existence as a team."

Baker is looking to once again contend for a district title and end a two-year absence from the playoffs utilizing another punishing ground game to take the pressure off sophomore quarterback Sage Atwood.

Elsewhere, Fort Myers, South Fort Myers, East Lee County and Estero hold home field advantage for their respective preseason matchups.

Gateway Charter, Evangelical Christian and Southwest Florida Christian all board buses for their first taste of live game conditions since spring scrimmages.



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