The intricacies of the state's classification system placed the Dunbar Tigers in a district with a much larger schools last year, but the Tigers' coach pays it no mind.
"To me it's neutral," said Tigers coach Phil Vogt. "You've got to play somebody."
Because the Florida High School Athletic Association bases its classification system on the previous year's student head count, the Tigers found themselves in Class 2B with upstart program Island Coast. The latter had just opened its new building during that head count, but its enrollment since has put it at the same size as Class 3A schools. Last year, Island Coast won the District 2B-6 championship in its first year of varsity football, while Dunbar was the runner-up.
"On the numbers alone, you've got to assume that Island Coast has a distinct advantage," Vogt said. "Island Coast is essentially three times bigger than any school in the district. Their enrollment is huge compared to any other school here."
Since the state now reclassifies every two years, Dunbar must compete with Island Coast's numbers another season. Plus, it's not just Island Coast that the Tigers have to consider. Clewiston and Lake Placid finished only one game out in the district standings last season.
"Everybody has playoff experience," Vogt said. "Clewiston has been to the show a few times. LaBelle has been there. That's the way it's supposed to be."
On offense, the Tigers have to contend with some new faces. Junior quarterback Tyrece Jiles transferred to Cape Coral, moving Chris James into the starting position. He mostly was a wide receiver last year, but played some time at QB, completing more than 50 percent of his passes, but threw more interceptions than touchdowns.
At running back, Jon Jones returns to play his senior year. A newcomer up from junior varsity, Lank Dawson is expected to contribute some offensive touches as well.
"We really like him," Vogt said. "He's all the good things you like about a high school player."
On defense, Dunbar will rely on speed. Vogt said this year's defense is the fastest he's had since he started there five years ago.
"We've got kids that can run," Vogt said.
The schedule is the same as last year, but with the locations flipped. Opening at perennial power Naples on Sept. 3, the Tigers have Lehigh, Fort Myers, Riverdale and East Lee County on their non-district slate. Two of those teams, Lehigh and Riverdale, were playoff contenders last year.
Dunbar High School Tigers
Sept. 3 - at Naples
Sept. 10 - vs. Lehigh
Sept. 16 - vs. Fort Myers
Sept. 24 - at Gateway Charter-x
Oct. 8 - vs. LaBelle-x
Oct. 15 - at Riverdale
Oct. 22 - at Island Coast-x
Oct. 29 - vs. Lake Placid-x
Nov. 5 - vs. Clewiston-x
Nov. 12 - at East Lee County
Head Coach: Phil Vogt, fifth year (24-19)
Assistants: Sam Brown (def. coord.), Colin Kelly (off. line/DE), Mark Hufnagel (off. coord.)/WR), Justin Gallon (linemen), Chris Fields (DB).
Team Colors: Orange & green
Stadium: Tigers Stadium, 3800 East Edison Ave.
Playoff History: 2001 - Avon Park 55, Dunbar 6; 2002 - Clearwater Central Catholic 34, Dunbar 7. 2004 - Dunbar 22, Hardee County 20; Immokalee 54, Dunbar 0. 2008 - Dunbar 39, Naples Lely 30; Naples 17, Dunbar 14. 2009 - Tampa Catholic 29, Dunbar 13.
Home: 1-4 Away: 5-1 District: 4-1
Naples 14, Dunbar 12
Dunbar 14, Lehigh 13
Dunbar 31, Fort Myers 7
Dunbar 48, Gateway Charter 0
Dunbar 45, LaBelle 6
Riverdale 42, Dunbar 21
Island Coast 6, Dunbar 2
Dunbar 20, Lake Placid 3
Dunbar 29, Clewiston 0
Dunbar 43, East Lee 23
Tampa Catholic 29, Dunbar 13