It has been almost two years since the North Fort Myers football team won a regular season game.
In fact, the Red Knights had lost 20 games in a row overall until they managed to beat Lehigh in the spring game, giving the players a rare taste of victory.
With that 800-pound gorilla off their backs, the team now can focus on winning some regular season games. With a drop down to district 5A-14 and many returning players from last year's winless season, a repeat of that doesn't appear likely.
North Fort Myers senior Mitch Gallo and his teammates work on a footwork drill during a recent practice.
"We took our lumps last year. We knew it would be a trying season. And we made improvements as the season went on," said Knights coach Brian Makar. "We learned some things about the kids and positions and we were able to determine what might be better for the team."
One thing that remains constant is at quarterback, where coach's son Brandon will start his third season in the pro-style offense. He will have Bryan Byrd and oft-injured Jorge Perera as his top pass catchers and junior tight end Mike Ostrowski as another option.
Seniors Dillon Czerwinski at halfback and fullback David Vogel should get the bulk of the carries, with Shannon Sims and Jake Duff also seeing action.
North Fort Myers Red Knights
(All games 7:30 p.m.)
Aug. 23 - vs. Evangelical Christian (preseason), 7 p.m.
Aug. 30 - at Braden River
Sept. 6 - vs. Fort Myers
Sept. 12 - at Gulf Coast
Sept. 20 - vs. Mariner-x
Sept. 27 - vs. Cape Coral-x
Oct. 4 - at Cypress Lake-x
Oct. 11 - vs. Island Coast-x
Oct. 25 - at Lemon Bay-x
Nov. 1 - at Dunbar-x
Nov. 8 - vs. Bishop Verot
Head coach: Brian Makar ('12), 2nd year (0-10)
Assistants: Mike Duff (OC/DB), Shane Makar (DL/WR), Todd Sheridan (LB), Jose Santiago (DB/RB), Adam Phelps (DL/OL), Brian Makar (OL/DC).
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: 0-4 Away: 0-6 District: 0-6
Cape Coral 40, North 2
Mariner 34, North 3
Estero 49, North 13
x-Island Coast 48, North 0
x-South Fort Myers 49, North 0
Dunbar 34, North 9
x-Ida Baker 51, North 0
x-Fort Myers 41, North 7
x-Bishop Verot 37, North 7
x-Riverdale 42, North 0
Makar admitted the starters are more set in silly putty than stone after an 0-10 season where the team scored all of 47 points and allowed nearly 400.
For Makar it was more a case of moving the players he had to other positions where they had an opportunity to succeed.
"We're not starting from scratch, but we have open positions. We had to find out what we thought would be best to strengthen the defense and open the offense," Makar said.
The strength of the team is up front, where Matt Edwards, Tyler Hallatt, Tim Laux and Mitch Gallo will lead the senior-laden line. Only center Nathan Paris is an underclassman. Brandon Makar said that could be the biggest difference between last year and this year.
"The offensive line has gotten bigger and stronger and we've gotten better and grown as a team," Brandon said. "When you can move your opponent off the line completely changes the game."
Edwards, Ricky Noel, Woolly Soufrance and Jeff Tumbarello will head up the defensive line, with Perera and Chase Smith at outside linebacker and Cole Shuker and Tim Loucks on the inside.
Vogel and Byrd will play cornerback, while Jake Duff and Austin Campbell at safety. Connor Black, one of the best kickers in the area, returns for his senior year.
The district change gives the Knights a different schedule. Mariner, Cape Coral, Cypress Lake and Lemon Bay are featured on the schedule, with only rival Fort Myers left from their 6A days.
Brandon said it doesn't matter who they play, but how they play.
"A schedule is a schedule. You have to play the game no matter who it is. I'm confident that with the team we have, no matter who we play we're going to be successful," he said.