Mark Ackerman inherited a challenge when he accepted the job as athletic director and head football coach at Southwest Florida Christian Academy.
Last year was SWFCA's first playing 11-man football under the direction of Dave Hastings. As Ackerman begins here, almost the entire coaching staff from the first year is gone. Mickey Franklin worked with the team during spring ball, and is the only holdover from last year.
As Ackerman talks about the task ahead, he says it's almost like starting from the beginning again.
He is no stranger to this setting. Ackerman came to Southwest Florida from Tyler, Texas, where his responsibility at All Saints Episcopal was to start a football program from scratch. In his final season there, the school made the state playoffs.
This winter, amid the need to be closer to aging parents and look for a better fit with his giftings, Ackerman found SWFCA. He and his family previously spent several years in Florida in St. Petersburg, particularly at Northside Christian.
Ackerman played college football for Gardner-Webb in North Carolina, and worked as a graduate assistant. He also had coaching stops in Waco, Texas, and as an assistant for the Arena League team in Miami.
Ackerman is excited about this new challenge.
When a football program is young it will lack experience. The Kings had 25 players turn out for practice this fall, but only three are seniors. Ackerman thinks the strength of this team is the sophomore and junior class.
"For many, the only football they know is what they got last year," said Ackerman.
Andrew Hall and his strong arm will lead the Kings' offense at quarterback. One of his targets in the aerial game is wide receiver Colton Cato.
"(Cato) has soft hands and understands spatial relationships between wide receivers and defensive backs, and where he should be," said Ackerman.
On the defensive side, the Kings will rely on the aggressiveness and team leadership of linebacker Sas Strouder.
Every coach has his own way of coaching, and Ackerman and his staff are busy retraining the team on new techniques and terminology. He senses eagerness on the part of the players to learn.
"We are trying to build a solid base," Ackerman said. "We can get better. We're not going to win the district title this year, but we can go and grow."
Another thing about developing a new team is everyone is on the same footing.
"We don't have any prima donnas (players who consider themselves better than others) here," Ackerman said. "They all want to grow."
Ackerman looks ahead as well.
"Our middle school students are getting excited," he said. "It used to be that if we had a middle school student who was thinking he wanted to play football, they would go somewhere else. Hopefully, now we can retain them."
Overall, Ackerman stresses that coming from Texas to coach at SWFCA was about more than just football.
"God called us here," he said. "Coaching is making an investment in the lives of our guys. We want them to learn valuable lessons, and we'll use football to help teach them."
Southwest Florida Christian will play a 10-game schedule in District 1B-6, where they are rivals with the likes of Evangelical Christian and St. John Neumann of Naples.
The Kings make their season debut on Sept. 3 with their first district test at Bradenton Christian.
Southwest Florida Christian Academy Kings
Sept. 3 - at Bradenton Christian-x
Sept. 10 - vs. South Florida Heat
Sept. 17 - vs. St. Stephen's Episcopal-x
Sept. 24 - at First Baptist Academy
Oct. 1 - at Moore Haven-x
Oct. 8 - at First Academy
Oct. 15 - vs. Evangelical Christian-x
Oct. 22 - at Out-of-Door Academy-x
Oct. 29 - at St. John Neumann-x
Nov. 4 - vs. Vanguard School
Nov. 12 - at Princeton Christian
Head coach: Mark Ackerman ('10), first year
Assistants: Mickey Franklin, Grey Foshee, Victor Hall (def. coord.).
Playoff History: none.
Principal: Mrs. Lisa Kleinmann
Home: 2-3 Away: 1-3 District: 0-4
SWFC 48, Cape Coral Christian 0
SWFC 17, Faith Baptist 7
SWFC 13, Bradenton Christian 7
SWFC 33, Coral Springs Christian 11
Woods Haven 52, SWFC 7
Moore Haven 21, SWFC 14
ECS 53, SWFC 7
Northside Christian 48, SWFC 7
Naples First Baptist Acad. 47, SWFC 35
Trinity Christian 49, SWFC 6