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Tritons aim to erase past failures

August 22, 2014
By LYLE FITZSIMMONS - Special to the Breeze , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

The corrugated metal field house looks like a typical corrugated metal field house. The football locker room inside smells pretty much like a typical football locker room.

But when Travis Smith leans back, folds hands behind a razor-cropped head and looks through his window a few moments before players start arriving for a mid-August practice, he sees something else.

Possibility.

Article Photos

MICHAEL PISTELLA
Mariner quarterback Dustin Culver throws during a recent practice as the Tritons prepared for a preseason scrimmage at South Fort Myers on Friday.

Just a handful of months removed from the 20th reunion of his Mariner High School graduating class, the now 30-something alumnus has again returned to his old stomping grounds, this time with a new role and a new perspective on what it'll take to return Tritons football to its former prominence.

Smith, who's taught at the school for several years, is going through his initial preseason as the head football coach after succeeding James Hale, who stepped down after one year for family reasons.

He'd been groomed for the job while serving as Hale's top assistant in 2013 - after interviewing for it during the process that ultimately ended in Hale's hiring - and if a look of complete comfort within one's workplace is indicative of on-the-job success, a moribund program's fortunes could turn quickly.

Fact Box

Mariner Tritons

2014 Schedule

Aug. 22 - at South Fort Myers, 7 p.m.

Aug. 29 - vs. Estero, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 5 - at Palmetto Ridge, 7 p.m.

Sept. 12 - vs. Port Charlotte, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 19 - vs. North Fort Myers, 7:30 p.m.-x

Sept. 26 - at Island Coast, 7:30 p.m.-x

Oct. 3 - at Dunbar, 7:30 p.m.-x

Oct. 10 - at Golden Gate, 7 p.m.

Oct. 17 - vs. Lemon Bay, 7:30 p.m.-x

Oct. 24 - vs. Cypress Lake, 7:30 p.m.-x

Oct. 31 - at Cape Coral, 7:30 p.m.-x

Nov. 1 - vs. Cape Coral-x

(x-district)

Head Coach: Travis Smith ('14), 1st year

Assistants: Keeth Jones (DC/ILB/WR), Vinnie Festa (OL/DT), Terrence Simmons (WR/OLB/S), Al Bailey (RB/CB), Peter Cabrera (fresh), Marvin Jones (fresh), Tyler Pigott (fresh).

Team Colors: Black & Silver

Stadium: Tony McKenna Field, 701 Chiquita Blvd.

Class/District: 5A-14

Playoff History: 1991 - Mariner 21, Jesuit 6; Haines City 19, Mariner 16 (Regionals); 1997 - Miramar 40, Mariner 30; 1998 - Plantation 49, Mariner 19. 2003 - Bradenton Bayshore 20, Mariner 0. 2004 - Mariner 30, Charlotte 27 (2OT); Seffner Armwood 50, Mariner 7.

2013 Results

Record: 1-9

Home: 0-4 Away: 1-5 Dist: 1-5

Estero 49, Mariner 8

Palmetto Ridge 28, Mariner 7

Port Charlotte 49, Mariner 0

x-North Fort Myers 42, Mariner 21

x-Island Coast 61, Mariner 6

x-Dunbar 57, Mariner 0

Golden Gate 48, Mariner 14

x-Lemon Bay 47, Mariner 7

x-Mariner 17, Cypress Lake 16

x-Cape Coral 49, Mariner 6

(x-district)

"That's always been my goal since I started coaching, to become the head coach at Mariner High School," Smith said. "If you can be a high school football coach and have a dream job, then this is mine."

To erase the recent nightmares on the field will take some doing.

The Tritons won just one of 10 games in Hale's lone season, including all nine losses by at least 21 points and six by 40 points or more. The team allowed an average of 44.6 points per game - a number that spikes to 47.7 per game when the lone win is factored out - but Smith said he expects some scheme adjustments to instantly yield better results on the ball-stopping side of the equation.

"Our kids got confused a lot of times, and it didn't allow them to play to their fullest potential," he said. "We're going to simplify our defense and that way they can just line up and just get after it."

Similar tweaks are on the way for the offense, too, specifically relating to pace of play.

Smith worked with offensive and defensive line personnel last season and had the title of offensive coordinator, but said Hale did the majority of the play calling. The two worked jointly when it came to game planning, though, an experience that Smith said he'll draw upon this season.

"We're going to try to control the tempo," he said. "Speed it up when we want to speed it up, slow it down when we want to slow it down. Installing defenses is a lot easier than installing offenses. We're going to be doing some of the stuff that we did last year, because we were successful with some of it, but we have changed around some other aspects."

Smith said a declaration that all starting slots are open for competition, regardless of a player's status or level of experience, has created a tangible sense of urgency since practice began in early August.

If he needs to stand on a chair to make sure the masses stay roused going forward, so be it.

"When I get passionate about rivalries and stuff like that, I get extremely passionate," he said. "These kids know that I'm an emotional kind of a guy and when I get fired up, I mean it. It's not just a show. I think I do have an advantage there, from being a part of this school for so long. It matters to me."

 
 

 

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