The Riverdale Raiders are coming off back-to-back district titles and head into this season having lost 22 seniors to graduation.
The Raiders believe it is not out of their reach to capture their third consecutive district championship.
Coach Rob Hinson takes over a Raiders team that compiled a 9-2 record last season, going undefeated (5-0) in District 3A-11 to win the title.
"We have a target on our back this year, and I told the guys it is a good thing," said Hinson, who was an assistant coach on the Raiders' staff under coach Tom Roszell, who stepped down after the season.
There is heavy competition coming from a veteran South Fort Myers, the two-time district runner-up, and an always-solid Bishop Verot squad.
Consequently, the Raiders have no time for rebuilding and hope they can continue their recent dominance with all the new guys in the lineup. The Raiders' success most likely will hinge on junior quarterback Jeff Colton, who started off the year the right way in the spring.
He completed 6-of-8 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. He is stepping into the role held last season by Nathan Gahafer.
Colton also is a running threat which will help in tough situations.
The Raiders start the season with two of their first three games on the road. The opener is Sept. 3 at East Lee County (2-8), followed by a home game against District 4A-11 champ Charlotte and a grudge match on Sept. 16 on the road against Lehigh, which knocked the Raiders out of the playoffs in the regional quarterfinal round.
Their biggest game of the year is Oct. 29 at home against the South Fort Myers Wolfpack.
Riverdale High School Raiders
Sept. 3 - at East Lee County
Sept. 10 - vs. Charlotte
Sept. 16 - at Lehigh
Sept. 24 - vs. Mariner-x
Oct. 8 - at Fort Myers-x
Oct. 15 - vs. Dunbar
Oct. 22 - at Bishop Verot-x
Oct. 29 - vs. South Fort Myers-x
Nov. 5 - at North Fort Myers-x
Nov. 12 - vs. LaBelle
Head Coach: Rob Hinson ('10), first year
Assistants: Lance Riccio (runningbacks), Tom Roszell Jr. (QB/wide receivers), Billy Swats (def. linemen/linebackers), Allen Cochran (def. backs), Shawn Ades (linebackers)
Team Colors: garnet & gold
Stadium: Karl Engel Field, 2600 Buckingham Road, Fort Myers
Playoff History: 1998 - Sarasota Booker 27, Riverdale 15. 2004 - Bradenton Southeast 42, Riverdale 7. 2005 - Riverdale 42, Naples Lely 14. 2008 - Naples 61, Riverdale 23. 2009 - Lehigh 15, Riverdale 7.
Home: 5-1 Away: 4-1 District: 5-0
Riverdale 48, East Lee 0
Charlotte 42, Riverdale 6
Riverdale 30, Lehigh 7
Riverdale 35, Mariner 2
Riverdale 35, Fort Myers 0
Riverdale 42, Dunbar 21
Riverdale 18, Bishop Verot 7
Riverdale 27, South Fort Myers 24
Riverdale 28, North Fort Myers 23
Riverdale 48, LaBelle 0
Lehigh 15, Riverdale 7