The older members of the Ida Baker Bulldogs know what it's like to go from the penthouse to the outhouse.
After an 8-3 record and a district title in 2009, nothing went right in 2010, which resulted in the Bulldogs being as black and blue as their team colors and winless to boot.
Bulldog coach Brian Conn doesn't talk about it to the players, but hopes they got the message and are ready to inflict some pain on their opponents.
The Ida Baker Bulldogs start their season at Estero. More photos are available online at: cu.cape-coral-daily-breeze.com.
"We don't discuss last year. It's motivation. They know what last year and two years ago felt like and they know what feeling they want," Conn said. "We don't want to get in the same rut."
"We learned not to take what you're doing for granted and go 100 percent in practice," said senior quarterback Reese Atwood.
"Winning isn't easy without hard work. You need leadership, teamwork and tough guys," said senior linebacker/lineman Zach Mitchell. "This season we're more of a family, a team. We have one heartbeat."
Things began looking up in the spring, when they beat Cape Coral for the first time ever. More good news is the Bulldogs have 14 starters returning, many of them seniors who saw ample playing time last season.
"A lot of guys got experience last year and that's our strength this year," Conn said. "We have a lot of kids coming from JV and we're excited about the season."
While the Bulldogs lost quarterback Sean Francis and linebacker Brian Keene, they have plenty of reinforcements and lots of competition for open positions.
Atwood, who started two games at quarterback last season, will get the entire season under center in the Bulldog's multiple offense. Justin Johnson should get most of the carries while seniors Cecil Fitch and Matt Rivera will catch Atwood's passes.
The line features seniors Mitchell and Dylan Placher.
In the defense's 4-3 scheme, Mitchell will start at linebacker along with Chris Partos, while Johnson, Rivera and Avery Thompson should produce a solid secondary.
Baker's schedule isn't about to get easier. Moving into District 6A-11, the Bulldogs face competition that should be evenly matched every week.
It also doesn't help that they play their first two games on the road - at Estero (Sept. 2) and Cape Coral (Sept. 9) - plus the season finale against Mariner.
That doesn't faze the Bulldogs in the least.
"I don't want to play the easy teams. We want the hard teams people are supposed to be afraid of," Mitchell said. "I'm 100 percent ready for it. I can't wait."
Neither can Conn, who believes his team is up to the challenge.
"The district, one through seven, is pretty competitive, but we had a great summer camp and expect to have a good season and get back in the playoffs," Conn said.
"The work ethic has been through the roof. We've had up-tempo practices and we're continuing what we did in the spring," Attwood said. "We have to be ready in the fourth quarter."
Whether it produces the feeling they want at the end of the season remains to be seen.
Ida Baker Bulldogs
Sept. 2 - at Estero
Sept. 9 - at Cape Coral
Sept. 16 - vs. Port Charlotte
Sept. 30 - vs. Island Coast-x
Oct. 6 - vs. Bishop Verot-x
Oct. 14 - at North Fort Myers-x
Oct. 21 - vs. Riverdale-x
Oct. 28 - at Fort Myers-x
Nov. 4 - at South Fort Myers-x
Nov. 11 - vs. Mariner
Head Coach: Brian Conn (7th year, 19-42)
Assistants: Dwayne Mack (def. coordinator/DB), Brad Seiss (special teams), Fernando Vazquez (LB), Scott Griffith (DL), Anthony Farinella (WR), Aaron Quaintance (OL).
Team Colors: Black, Blue & Silver
Stadium: 3500 Agualinda Blvd.
Playoff History: 2009 - Charlotte 27, Ida Baker 7.
Home: 0-5 Away: 0-5 District: 0-3
Lehigh 24, Baker 13
North Fort Myers 13, Baker 0
Island Coast 55, Baker 0
Lakewood Ranch 35, Baker 14
North Port 34, Baker 14
Gulf Coast 28, Baker 7
South Fort Myers 41, Baker 0
Palmetto Ridge 35, Baker 21
Cape Coral 42, Baker 6
Mariner 21, Baker 14