There's a new football program kicking off in Cape Coral this fall, and it brings a new style.
Oasis High School, entering its third year of varsity athletics, is starting its inaugural season on the gridiron as a member of the Southeast Christian 6-Man Football Association. The Sharks join Cape Coral Christian and Canterbury in the league.
On the campus, it's creating a buzz for the new school that's still trying to find a sense of spirit.
"It's huge, I think," athletic director and co-head coach Jason Bowman said. "It saved some kids that were thinking about going."
The season started Tuesday as the Sharks faced Miami Westwood Christian at the Storms Complex.
Six-man football has emerged over the last several years as a viable alternative for schools too small to compete in the traditional 11-man game. It was started by schools in small Texas towns.
Play is more open. For example, offensive linemen are eligible receivers. As a result, games are high scoring, and is much like indoor football.
"When I first started, it seemed like regular football, but when you get into the rules it's kind of weird," said sophomore running back Jonathan Pogue. "It's so much faster. You've got to have a lot of endurance."
While it gives Oasis a chance to be competitive, the program is still young and its players are mostly inexperienced at any level of football. Center/defensive lineman Austin Hiebing is the team's only senior, and one of the few that has played high school football before.
"I don't feel pressure," Hiebing said. "Mostly, the reason I participated was because it's the first year and to get the program established, we need some leadership."
While Hiebing is set to provide the leadership as captain, a cadre of underclassmen are tabbed to provide leadership of their own. Sophomore Josh Ertter has the daunting task of being the program's first starting quarterback even though he has no experience playing organized football. That could be a benefit as he doesn't need to "unlearn" 11-man football.
Sophomores Pogue and Austin Beach will handle most of the touches at runningback. Pogue hasn't played high school ball, but played Pop Warner since kindergarten. Beach played for Ida Baker's freshman team last year. He also is a multisport athlete who was one of the top middle school runners in the county.
"You definitely need a lot of stamina, because there is a lot of running around back and forth," Beach said. "If you're a natural athlete, it does help a lot."
The running game features a bruising fullback-like presence in freshman Mike Mielnicki, who has good hands for a player over 250 pounds.
At receiver, Beach and sophomore John Callahan will run some of the routes.
On defense, the team is small and young, but has some toughness, including Pogue and freshman Jojo Pascale on the defensive line.
Bowman will run the defense and Mark Brooks is the offensive coordinator in a co-head coach system. Both are newcomers to high school football coaching, but Brooks has experience at the Pop Warner level and both have coached other sports at the high school level.
Oasis High School Sharks
Southeast Christian 6-Man Association
Aug. 24 - vs. Miami Westwood, 2 p.m.
Sept. 4 - at Donahue (Ave Maria), 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 9 - vs. Island Christian, 5 p.m.
Sept. 16 - at Canterbury, 4 p.m.
Sept. 24 - at Miami Christian, 5 p.m.
Sept. 30 - vs. Cape Coral Christian, 5 p.m.
Oct. 9 - at Naples Nicea Academy, 6 p.m.
Oct. 15 - Southern Conference Championship
Oct. 22 - State Playoff, 1st round
Oct. 29 - State Playoff, 2nd round
Nov. 5 - State Semifinals
Nov. 12 - State Championship
Head coach: Jason Bowman ('10), first year
Assistants: Jason Bowman (defense); Mark Brooks (offense).
Home Field: Storms Complex.