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Fire names coaching staff, signs first players

October 19, 2018
By CJ HADDAD ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

As we near closer to the inaugural season of A-League football, the Gulf Coast Fire are constructing its roster, along with coaching staff, to be strong contenders in the 2019 campaign.

The Fire's first move was to name Brent Burnside as head coach. He has a myriad of area league coaching and playing experience spanning nearly two decades.

For the last seven years, he was the director of player personnel and defensive coordinator with the Florida Tarpons.

"I'm excited for this opportunity to lead the Fire. I was blessed with the chance to coach for a great organization like the Tarpons, and look forward to building the Fire at Hertz Arena. We will play an exciting brand of football with an infusion of local, and regional talent. My goal is to not only lead a group to a winning tradition, but also entertain the loyal fans in Southwest Florida." said Burnside in a press release.

Other coaching additions include Antwoine A. Beard, who will be an assistant coach specializing in wide receivers, defensive backs and strength and conditioning.

Max Manin was named as an A-League Regional Scout in the South-west Florida area as well.

Roy Stabler, currently part of Cape Coral High School's coaching tree, was named defensive coordinator for the Fire this past week to complete their coaching staff.

Stabler also has area league experience behind 15 years of coaching in some facet.

He was a 2nd Team All-American at the University of Southern Mississippi.

"Roy has been a long-time teammate of mine who has a ton of arena football knowledge. We won a championship together in 2004 and we share similar philosophies. He is a natural leader and competitor, and will hold each individual accountable. He knows what it takes to win," Burnside said in a press release.

The first three players signed by the Fire were offensive lineman Mike Dunn, linebacker Mikail Binns and wide receiver/defensive back Zach Culvahouse-all have arena football tenure.

"As soon as I learned I would be the head coach in Estero, the first two names that popped into my head were Mike 'Thor' Dunn and Zach Cul-vahouse. Both have big game experience indoors and both are local products having graduated from Estero High School. They fit exactly what we are trying to build here and I trust them fully to get the job done," Burnside said in a release. "Binns is a guy who has been around the indoor game for several years. I admire his passion and he is another guy that has big game experience with me. He is a local coach and his knowledge for the game will be an asset."

The A-League held a combine in Cape Coral earlier in the month, producing four new signees to add to its experience-heavy and local roster.

Acquisitions include Johnell Barnes, Collin Saring, Josh Cole and Vinton Lewis.

Saring, currently the only quarterback signed to the Fire, has an incredible story and deep roots in Cape Coral.

An '09 graduate of Cape Coral High School, Saring pursued education and football at Webber Interna-tional University.

Just as things were starting to mesh both on and off the field, things took a turn for the worst.

"After my sophomore year I had a great opportunity to compete for the starting job and win it, so I made the decision, along with a number of other teammates, to forgo the summer back home and live in Lake Wales over the summer to train and prepare for the upcoming 2011/2012 season," said Saring. "That summer was when I was hospitalized and my entire life was turned upside down and nearly taken from me."

At a party one night in Lake Wales, Saring was unknowingly drugged at some point, his reaction to the substance was bad enough for a friend to bring him back home to Cape Coral, where his mother brought him to the emergency room immediately.

He was released the following morning and "cleared and OK," but had a seizure within four hours of returning home, where paramedics brought him back to the hospital.

"From that day on I was hospitalized for 2 1/2 months. I was immediately put in ICU and was there for a week. Doctors could not figure out what was wrong, and eventually found that I had a brain infection that caused me to be in a catatonic coma for nine days; meaning non-responsive whatsoever, a woken coma," he said. "I went from 230 pounds of muscle and mass, to 180 pounds withering away. I wouldn't eat or drink. Once I came out of my coma state, I was 'reborn' mentally and literally spoke baby talk as if I was a newborn.

"The re-covery pro-cess was complicated and extensive as I literally was relearning everything and doing so in a hospital. Once I was released from the hospital in August, the recovery process was still a long road ahead as I had to become acclimated to society and being in public," he continued. "I dealt with severe anxiety and was unable to leave the house for weeks. If it wasn't for my amazing family and my brother Tyler, I would never have made it. This entire time, from being in the hospital and recovering, and recovering at home, the main thing on my mind was getting back to Webber and playing football again. It killed me, literally brought me to tears on game days that I couldn't be out there with my team, with my family."

Saring, within five months of being released from the hospital, enrolled and attended Webber in the spring of 2012, but said something felt off, and made the decision to return to the Cape, ending his college football career.

"That spring semester just wasn't the same for me, and it just didn't feel right to be there so I made the decision to return to Cape Coral and stop playing college football, one of my only regrets in my life," he said.

Coaching became an interest for him, as he returned to his alma mater, Cape Coral High School, coaching quarterbacks.

Depression, due to personal reasons and the void of playing football, took over Saring, he said.

He eventually pulled himself together and got back into playing shape, being contacted by Burnside, then coach of the Florida Tarpons.

The Tarpons won the X-League championship that year, as Saring contributed on special teams, offense and defense.

"I have Coach Burnside to thank, who always pulled for me and had my best interest at all times," he said of his former and now current A-League coach.

The following season he chose to spend time with his newborn son, Carson.

His recent combine performance obviously caught the attention of Burnside and Fire personnel, as he was offered a contract the day after and is excited to get back out on the gridiron in front of a local fan base.

"My goal is to be the starting QB this upcoming season and lead our team to wins. I have a great relationship with players already signed, and the talent we plan to bring in and already have will make my job very easy," he said. "I know Coach Burnside will put our team in the best position to win and compete."

Bringing the Fire the inaugural A-League championship is a vision he hopes comes to fruition.

"As a team, I honestly hope to get to the A-League championship and win. With our four-team league and playoff format, Coach Burnside at the helm and the players we have and will sign, there is no reason we can't get it done," said Saring. "It is a tough goal to shoot for, being a brand new team and building from scratch, especially with a great Lakeland Tarpons team already established. But it's a goal we have our sights set on already early in the process. Not only do we want to achieve success on the field, we want to achieve success in the community and be positive role models to the youth. We hope to build a family environment and let our fans know how important they are to us, without our surrounding communities, there would be no Gulf Coast Fire.

"My hope is to see the people of Southwest Florida fall in love with the sport of arena football as much as I did," he added. "The time of year when there's no other football being played, right here in our home there is a place to come and watch great football at a very affordable price, and leave with an experience you've never had before as well as a time you'll never forget."

Eighty sets of season tickets have already been sold for Fire home games played at Hertz Arena.

The Fire opens their season at home versus the Manatee Neptunes Sunday, May 12, at 4:05 p.m.

Visit for more information and tickets.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj



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