After what was a rebuilding season last fall, the East Lee County Jaguars finished with a 5-3-1 record, the first winning season in school history.
This season the Jaguars again continue rebuilding with just six seniors on the roster and one returning starter on both offense and defense.
"We're a young team, with only a couple of seniors," said East Lee coach Scott Jones. " Last year we had seniors step up. This year we are going to need more players to step up."
Last season the Jaguars had a trio of seniors leading the offense, including quarterback Marcus Simmons who threw for 755 yards and ran for nearly 700 more, and runningbacks Terrell Davis and Kyrande Smith.
Simmons will be replaced by sophomore Winifred Ward, who caught seven passes and one touchdown last season as a receiver.
"Winifred Ward is a real good athlete with a strong arm. He has focused all summer on getting better as a player and as a leader," Jones said of his new quarterback. "We are going to need him to lead this team, as he is going to be the man on offense for the next three years."
Davis and Smith leave behind a huge hole in the backfield, after combining for 1,500 yards rushing and 17 total touchdowns. Jones hopes to replace that loss with a stable of running backs, headed by leading returning rusher sophomore Kendall Sawyer. Sawyer ran for 230 yards on only 24 carries last season, and also scored three touchdowns.
The sophomore duo are teamed with another underclassman to lead the offensive attack, junior tight end Sheldon Fleming. Fleming is the lone returning starter on offense, having started at tackle.
Jones tabs Fleming as Ward's number one receiving threat, and at 6-foot-4, 230 pounds Fleming certainly has the size to be. The Jaguars' biggest position battles have been on the offensive line, where no real starters have emerged among the nine linemen the team brings into the fall.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Jaguars' lone starter, junior linebacker Richardson Bryant, led the team with 110 tackles and was one of the top tacklers in the state.
"He was our leader last year on defense and he will be our leader again this year," said Jones.
The Jaguars will see several players starting and playing both ways and that includes Fleming and Sawyer. Fleming will anchor the defensive line at tackle, while Sawyer will help guide the Jaguar secondary at the cornerback position. Both players saw time at their respective positions last season.
The rest of the defense will be solidified as the season gets under way.
Jones has had the Jaguars focus on strength throughout the offseason, as he believes they lost several games last season to teams that were simply stronger than they were. Jones also hopes to continue the team's success at home this season, after going undefeated at home last year.
The Jaguars did not fare as well on the road last season, losing three out-of-county games, but Jones hopes to get the team to do better with a schedule that has the Jaguars traveling out of Lee County only once.
The Jaguars open their season on Sept. 2 at Dunbar.
East Lee County Jaguars
Sept. 2 - at Dunbar
Sept. 9 - vs. South Fort Myers
Sept. 16 - vs. Barron Collier
Sept. 23 - at Estero-x
Oct. 6 - at Mariner-x
Oct. 21 - at Lehigh-x
Oct. 28 - vs. Cypress Lake-x
Nov. 4 - vs. Cape Coral-x
Nov. 11 - at Charlotte
Head Coach: Scott Jones, 4th year (12-17)
Assistants: Winifred Ward St. (off. coord.), Dave Smith (def. coord.), Tony Sitmon (off. line), Doug Faase (RB), Wilford Riviera (WR), Derrick Ransom (LB).
Team Colors: Aqua, Black & Silver
Stadium: East Lee County High School, 715 Thomas, Lehigh Acres.
Playoff History: none. (first varsity season '07)
Home: 5-0 Away: 1-3 District: 4-2
East Lee 32, Riverdale 26
at South Fort Myers, ccd.
Lakewood Ranch 34, East Lee 20
Naples 56, East Lee 12
Barron Collier 17, East Lee 0
East Lee 34, Lely 31
East Lee 28, Lehigh 18
East Lee 32, Golden Gate 29
East Lee 27, Cypress Lake 24
East Lee 41, Dunbar 0