Cape Coral Christian is a relative newcomer to the high school football scene in Southwest Florida. The Crusaders began their football program only last season.
As a private school with a high school enrollment less than 100, the school entered uncharted territory under the direction of Mike Curtis, who has the dual role of athletic director and head football coach.
Football was initiated there because of Curtis' passion for the sport, and because there were several seniors who desired to play competitively. In their first season, the Crusaders went 4-4.
That first-year team had 11 seniors. In a small school, to have that many players graduate can be devastating to a program.
In the offseason, Curtis was approached by the Florida Christian Association of Private and Parochial Schools (FCAPPS) to consider playing six-man football. With fewer players, the decision was made to change to six-man for this season.
Although the desire is to return to 11-man football, Curtis became excited about the prospects for this year's team.
The Crusaders' biggest strengths could be speed and toughness.
"We've got a couple of kick returners who are quick," said Curtis.
He pointed to two preseason scrimmages with another area team in which the Crusaders scored several touchdowns.
"We stayed after it," said Curtis.
Both he and assistant coach James Sparkman were encouraged to see how well they played, especially noting the quickness of the offense.
"These guys are the best disciplined team I have ever had at any level," said Curtis. "They consistently give 120 percent. They are coachable. Everything I tell them to do, they do it."
If effort is the determining factor of a team's achievement, the Crusaders likely will have a successful season.
Key players include quarterback Jamal Ward, a senior who is all of 6-foot, 165 pounds. Ward just joined the Crusaders this year and his quickness has won him the starting job at quarterback.
Miguel Morales, Christian Beckett and Quade Palmer will share time at runningback.
Other keys to the program rests with kicker Jan Kondek as well as wide receivers/cornerbacks Alex Morales and Ben Gregg.
Six-man football is played on an 80-yard field. It also differs from 11-man in that all six players are eligible receivers. Three offensive linemen are required on the line of scrimmage at the start of the play. The player to whom the ball is snapped cannot run past the line of scrimmage, but if the ball is tossed to another player, that player can run or throw the ball and the player who took the snap becomes an eligible receiver.
The Crusaders will play in a seven-school conference. Overall, 62 teams across the state play six-man in this league. An eight-team state playoff concludes with a State Championship game in Tampa. The top team from the Crusaders' conference will qualify for the quarterfinals.
Cape Christian's home games will be played at either the North Fort Myers Community Park's Pop Warner field or at the Page Field Football Complex.
Cape Coral Christian Crusaders
Fla. Christian Assoc. of Private & Parochial Schools
Head coach: Mike Curtis, second year (4-4)
Assistant coach: James Sparkman (strength & conditioning).
Home field: North Fort Myers Community Park, Jerry Brooks Park (Page Field Pop Warner Complex).