The growth process continues for Mariner High School's football team.
Coach James Hale and the Tritons struggled through a 1-9 season last fall in the aftermath of a coaching change in spring 2013 and the transfers of several players to other schools.
"Some of them have bought into what we're trying to do," Hale said. "They've still got to develop a better work ethic. We're working on that. Things are getting better, but we've got a ways to go."
Mariner junior-to-be Dustin Culver rolls out after faking a handoff during practice Tuesday afternoon. The Tritons face the Golden Gate Titans Friday night at 7 p.m. in their spring football game.
A young line was pushed around last season, and youth wasn't the only reason. Mariner has upgraded its weightlifting facilities, giving the Tritons a chance to get stronger.
"We probably had about 20, in the 20s, kids showing up after school and lifting weights," Hale said Monday. "We had a bunch of others in the weight class so we've actually become a lot stronger. Guys' benches have gone up 65 pounds since August, which is really a good thing.
"Some of them had never lifted before. They've put a lot of hard work in. We've got four guys now benching over 300 pounds and a bunch close to that. We're really pleased with the progress in the weight room."
Hale has his entire line back from last year.
"They've done a really good job this spring," Hale said. "Cole Valentine is the only senior (next fall) we've got on the line. He's been a great leader and he's one of the guys benching 300 pounds. So we're pleased with our offensive line. They've done a good job the whole spring. We had a good practice today, beat them up pretty good, and they responded well."
The problem is that some of them will have to play both ways.
Meanwhile, the backfield situation for the Tritons is up in the air and likely to stay that way until workouts begin in August. Most of last year's seniors played as backs or receivers.
"We really haven't settled on who is going to be in the backfield," Hale said. "As far as our skill positions, we lack a little speed."
Hale mentioned Josh Eugene, who will be a senior in the fall, as a player doing well at runningback this spring.
"We're going to be better," Hale said. "Right now we're better than we were at any point last year. We're more physical, we hit better, we tackle better and we block better. That's not to put down anybody (from last year's team). They just didn't have the facilities. They didn't have a way to get these kids stronger. Now we do and it's paying off for us."
The Tritons close out spring Friday night with a home game against Golden Gate. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
"We've got probably three plays we're trying to execute (Friday)," Hale said. "It's not even about that. It's lining up, blocking, tackling, great effort. That's what I'm looking for. They're going to play as hard as they can. If we do that we're making progress.
"I really think we're going to surprise some people. I really do."
Hale and the Tritons program got some bad news with the death on May 8 of Billy Brooks, who coached with Hale at Cape Coral High and also spent time on coaching staffs at Cypress Lake and Barron Collier.
Brooks had helped out during spring workouts a year ago, and Hale had been looking forward to working with him again this fall.
"He's one of the finest people I've ever met in my life," Hale said. "We're going to miss him. He's a great coach. He did a lot of good things in Lee County. He helped a lot of kids."