The Ida Baker Bulldogs put together the young school's best season a year ago. They are not resting on what happened last year.
Baker went 9-1 in 2013 and made the Class 6A playoffs. The lone loss was a District 6A-12 defeat at the hands of South Fort Myers. That one loss has set the goal for this year's Bulldogs: Be the first Baker team to win a district title.
"We've talked about that with our guys," coach Brian Conn said. "It's an expectation every year to make the playoffs. We'll be disappointed if we didn't.
Ida Baker junior running back Izaiah Febles works on ball security with a coach during a recent practice.
"The higher the goal the steeper the climb," he added. "We know that it's going take a lot to knock South off their pedestal, not to overlook the other two teams in our district.
"We're a young school so there's always something that you can do to be the first. And that (a district title) is really what's left for us."
It's not going to be easy. Last year's senior class played a major role in the Bulldogs' success the last few seasons.
Ida Baker Bulldogs
Aug. 22 - vs. Oxbridge Academy, 7 p.m.
Aug. 29 - vs. Island Coast, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 5 - at First Baptist, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 12 - at Cape Coral, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 19 - at Riverdale, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 26 - vs. Estero, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 2 - vs. Lehigh, 7:30 p.m.-x
Oct. 10 - vs. Booker, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 17 - vs. South Fort Myers, 7:30 p.m.-x
Oct. 24 - at Charlotte, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 31 - at East Lee County, 7 p.m.-x
Head Coach: Brian Conn (10th year, 41-51)
Assistants: Michael Anderson (CB), Bobby Boye (RB), Scott Griffith (DL), Wayne Lesher (DL), Dwayne Mack (DC), Pat O'Brien (LB/special teams), David Pasquale (WR), Snake Penwell (video), Ira Riggins (DB), Michael Weiner (OL), Karleen Kudla (trainer), Jaron Gonzalez (frosh/JV), Danny Holloway (frosh/JV), Aaron Quaintance (frosh/JV).
Team Colors: Black, Blue & Silver
Stadium: 3500 Agualinda Blvd.
Playoff History: 2009 - Charlotte 27, Ida Baker 7. 2013 - Winter Haven 38, Baker 35.
Home: 4-0 Away: 5-2 District: 2-1
Baker 32, Island Coast 14
Baker 26, Key West 20
Baker 49, Cape Coral 32
Baker 33, Riverdale 28
Baker 60, Estero 10
x-Baker 45, Lehigh 0
Baker 31, Booker 28 (OT)
x- South Fort Myers 42, Baker 17
Baker 24, Charlotte 21
x-Baker 53, East Lee County 7
Winter Haven 38, Baker 35
"We graduated 21 seniors," Conn said. "Those guys were 21 contributors. Sometimes teams will graduate a high number, but a handful of them never contribute. That wasn't the case. Guys contributed on offense, defense and special teams; our leading tackler, leading receiver are gone.
"But that happens every year at every school," Conn said. "So we've got to find guys to step up that haven't had the opportunity yet. Some of them will really surprise you."
Optimism at Baker starts with quarterback Sage Attwood.
Attwood accounted for nearly 3,000 yards of offense last season, including 2,200 yards passing. He was the team's leading rusher, and Attwood was responsible for 27 touchdowns.
"Much of our offense we put in his hands," Conn said. "Much of it is reads. A certain play we could call it four times in a row and it could look like something different all four times. Each and every play he pretty much has an opportunity to make a play running the ball or possibly passing the ball.
"As long as he's making good decisions and not trying to do too much just continue to be the leader of the team. We threw the ball really well against a team ranked preseason No. 3 in 6A in the spring game against Naples," Conn said.
Griffin Urraro had a strong game against Naples with two touchdowns and more than 100 yards receiving.
Drayton Diggs has moved up from junior varsity and earned a starting role in the receiving corps. Austin Maimone, who missed last season, and former Dunbar player Rasheed Golden "obviously have somebody good throwing them the ball, but they make him look good as well," Conn said.
Izzy Febles, younger brother of departed senior Alex Febles, joins Jhshod Thornton in the backfield.
"We graduated our two starting running backs and our starting fullback," Conn said. "However, people have to realize that Sage Attwood was our leading rusher last year. He led the team in rushing touchdowns and yardage.
"Izzy, he's the spitting image of Alex," Conn said. "He's smart, he's got good football IQ. Jhshod Thornton is filling in nicely at that position and he's also smart. Those players picked up the offense in the spring and they're going to help us out. It's not just going to be keying on Sage. Those guys will be able to run our option plays."
Conn has been impressed by the improvement a young offensive line has made since the spring.
"It's a really smart group," Conn said, "that just needed a few months of weight lifting and some training and mental repetitions and team camps. That did them good over the summer."
Losses were heavy on the defense, too, but Conn has a solid core in defensive linemen Chandler Tew, Michael Rodriguez and Nick Raby along with linebacker Trevor Mitchell.
"Defensive line is going to be our strong point," Conn said. "We've got some big strong guys up front who are going to be key to shutting down some running games and getting pressure on the passer.
"I thought our front seven really did a good job defensively against Naples," Conn said. "We needed to fill some holes in the back half like we thought we would on the defensive side, but when you play a team like Naples it'll show you quickly what you need to improve upon.
"We've got a couple of guys that didn't play in the spring game that will be able to play in the fall," Conn added. "Matt Wurst is going to start at corner. He's been a really solid player for us. He contributed last year at the varsity level, but playing behind some good players. He really improved himself during track and field season. His speed is tremendously improved and it's helping him on the football field."
Baker takes on West Palm Beach Oxbridge Academy at home Aug. 22 in its kickoff classic.
The Bulldogs open the regular season with a bang. Island Coast visits Bulldogs Stadium Aug. 29 for what's being called the Cape Coral Crosstown Showdown.
The two schools are looking to establish an annual trophy game along the lines of the long-standing Cape-Mariner Black & Blue Bowl rivalry.
"Last year we had some really long road trips," Conn said. "We went to Key West and Sarasota. The farthest road trip this year is maybe East Lee County or Charlotte. Two of our three district games are at home."
That includes South Fort Myers on Oct. 17.