Propelled by top national recruits Dallas Crawford at quarterback and Sammy Watkins at receiver, the South Fort Myers Wolfpack culminated an undefeated regular season record (10-0) by making it all the way to the state Class 3A semifinals last season.
The Wolfpack will have to learn to live without those outstanding players this season.
Wolfpack coach Grant Redhead started the program six years ago with the opening of the school. He knows that talent such as Crawford and Watkins are rarities and he knew not to build the program relying on just one or two outstanding players.
With a philosophy based around commitment, discipline and having fun on the field, Redhead is confident the Wolfpack won't see too much of a fall off from last year's success.
"We run a great program because we have good assistants and great kids," said Redhead. "I'm a strong believer that if you do things right, don't cut corners and let the kids be kids, but don't let the inmates run the asylum, so to speak, then the program will sustain itself even when you have a lot of talent leaving."
Overcoming the loss of two dynamic players who propelled the Wolfpack nearly to a championship is no easy task and one made harder when factored with the 10 other starters lost to a strong senior class.
"Dallas and Sammy made things easier for us, but we didn't build the team around them," said Redhead. "We've got some kids that have some pretty good experience returning this year. We will just need to be consistent on both sides of the ball."
Junior Joe Fennell, a 6-foot-4, 320-pound offensive and defensive lineman, is one of the top interior linemen in the state. He will anchor what should be another stout defensive front like the one that allowed an average of less than 10 points per game a year ago.
Defensive back Nate Dorsch returns for his senior year and will provide leadership in what otherwise will be an inexperienced defensive backfield. Junior Kendrick Bishop will look to fill some of the void left by Watkins at the wide receiver position.
The offensive focus, says Redhead, will shift to more of a running game.
"This year we have a couple of decent runningbacks coming in and our (offensive) line is going to be more athletic and physical, so this year we will be able to use our ground game and use more play action to move the ball," he said.
In all, 21 seniors left the program, opening a large leadership and experience void to be filled. The junior varsity squad posted an impressive 7-0 record last year giving Redhead hope that the fall off from last year will not be too far.
The Wolfpack begin their season at home on Sept. 2 against Cypress Lake.
South Fort Myers Wolfpack
Sept. 2 - vs. Cypress Lake
Sept. 9 - at East Lee County
Sept. 16 - vs. Lehigh
Sept. 23 - vs. Bishop Verot-x
Sept. 30 - at North Fort Myers-x
Oct. 6 - vs. Riverdale-x
Oct. 14 - at Fort Myers-x
Oct. 21 - at Island Coast-x
Oct. 28 - at Charlotte
Nov. 4 - vs. Ida Baker-x
Head coach: Grant Redhead 7th year (46-20)
Assistants: Anthony Dixon, Nade Sund, Jason Brown, James Barritt, Ted Koszinski, Jarvis Kinchen, James Causey, Rick Mason, Derrick Duncan, Matt Dyal.
Team Colors: Cardinal red, white & black
Stadium: Plantation Road
Playoff History: 2007 - Immokalee 21, South 10. 2009 - South 48, Barron Collier 21; Lehigh 28, South 14. 2010 - South 33, Barron Collier 2; South 28, Naples 21; South 28, Southeast 21; Miami Norland 44, South 28
Home: 6-0 Away: 6-1 District: 5-0
South 49, Estero 7
vs. East Lee County, ccd.
South 39, Cypress Lake 0
South 35, Bishop Verot 3
South 49, Gulf Coast 7
South 34, North Fort Myers 0
South 41, Ida Baker 0
South 43, Fort Myers 10
South 39, Riverdale 3
South 50, Mariner 7
South 33, Barron Collier 2
South 28, Naples 21
South 28, Southeast 21
Miami Norland 44, South 28