"We're in the second year, and there's a little bit of a buzz about what we can do this year," says coach Mark Ackerman in analyzing his Southwest Florida Christian Academy team.
He jokingly adds, "I'm the longest tenured coach of SFCA."
Coming from Tyler, Texas, and entering a program last year that was just one year old, Ackerman inherited a challenge to build something at SFCA. He took the program and started over. Now in his second year, there are benchmarks to see what progress is being made.
Some comparisons to last year's team include Ackerman starting with 21 players last year. This year's squad has 29.
Last year, only one player tipped the scales at more than 200 pounds. Now everyone on the front line is over 200.
"That will help us control the game a little more," Ackerman said.
Last year, Ackerman says, "some basics were missing. We had to learn new terminology. This year, everyone is much ahead because we know the system, and coaches and the kids know one another."
Last year, lots of young (sophomore and junior) players were involved.
"This year, we have lots of players with playing experience," said Ackerman.
The Kings have 15 returning players - eight on offense and seven on defense.
"Last year was learning the system. This year, practices are more physical," Ackerman said.
He points to physical training in the offseason.
"The team really took to the weight room," he said. "We emphasized growing in our mobility and ability. At our first practice this fall we started in the weight room (because of inclement weather). A bunch of our kids went up in their max (maximum weight lifted)."
Overall, Ackerman sees his responsibility as athletic director and coach is about more than just football.
"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," he said.
SFCA moved from District 1B-6 to 2A-6 this year, but the same teams remain in the district.
Ackerman points to Evangelical Christian and Out-of-Door Academy as the teams to beat.
"Everyone has picked them," he said.
He likes to talk about goals for this season.
"Last time we came out and got pummeled by Keswick," Ackerman said. "We want to start out by beating them. We believe that will happen as our players are physical, and are moving forward on offense and defense.
"We were playing better at the end of the season last year, and hope that improvement carries over into this season. A concrete goal is that we hope we win more games. We want to stop losing."
Ackerman explained the Kings have to be able to move past the previous play and get ready for the next one. Not let a bad play continue to let them down, nor celebrate too much or too early about a great play. Just keep moving to the next one.
"It has to do with our spiritual attitude as well," Ackerman said. "We're not going to be perfect, but how are we going to respond and get up when we've failed?"
Seniors Andrew Hall at quarterback and Colton Cato at wide receiver are key factors for the Kings. Bryan Genter at running back, and Sas Stouder at linebacker.
The Kings open the regular season on Sept. 9 on the road at Central Florida Christian.
They will play their home games at Buckingham Park, on Buckingham Road east of Highway 82, Fort Myers.
SW Florida Christian Crusaders
Sept. 9 - at Central Florida Christian
Sept. 16 - at St. Stephen's Episcopal-x
Sept. 23 - vs. First Baptist Academy-x
Sept. 29 - vs. Moore Haven-x
Oct. 6 - vs. Community School of Naples-x
Oct. 14 - at Evangelical Christian-x
Oct. 21 - vs. Out-of-Door Academy-x
Oct. 28 - vs. St. John Neumann-x
Nov. 4 - vs. Boca Raton Crhistian
Nov. 11 - at Gateway Charter
Head coach: Mark Ackerman ('10), 2nd year (2-8)
Assistants: Wes Jacobs (RB/wings), Stacie Davis (QB), Victor Hall (def. coord.), Matt Baker (WR), Perry Duncan (WR/DB), Ben Fleming (off. line).
Home Field: Buckingham Park, Fort Myers
Playoff History: none.
Home: 2-2 Away: 0-6 District: 0-6
Bradenton Christian 41, SWFC 22
SWFC 31, South Florida Heat 0
St. Stephen's Episcopal 40, SWFC 6
First Baptist Academy 56, SWFC 27
Moore Haven 57, SWFC 44
Evangelical Christian 48, SWFC 6
Out-of-Door Academy 49, SWFC 8
St. John Neumann 24, SWFC 22
SWFC 58, Vanguard School 14
Princeton Christian 26, SWFC 20