Coach Mike Thornton enters his third year at Cypress Lake with a group of young guys that could be ready to take the next step.
The Panthers (4-6 last season) had a tough one-point loss to Fort Myers, but finished strong by winning three of their last four games.
Sophomores helped make those results and now, a year older, Thornton thinks they will make the natural progression in their talent and as leaders on the football field.
"We are young again, but the bright side is the junior-heavy team has experience from last year," Thornton said. "Many key juniors were starters last year, including Zyon Simmons, Devon Calhoun, and Jayron Kearse."
Kearse likely will be the team's starting quarterback, who has received offers from several colleges.
The Panthers will rely heavily on runningback Devon Calhoun, but so will the offensive line, anchored by Jacqueson Jean Baptiste.
The Panthers also find themselves competing in a new district, which offers its own set of challenges. They moved up to 5A-11, facing tough local opponents Cape Coral and Lehigh.
Like most programs, the Panthers have their eyes set on improving their record and making a strong push for the postseason.
"We look to be competitive in our new district and to fight for a playoff berth," Thornton said.
The Panthers make their season debut on Sept. 2 at South Fort Myers.
Cypress Lake Panthers
Sept. 2 - at South Fort Myers
Sept. 9 - vs. Naples Lely
Sept. 16 - vs. Fort Myers
Sept. 23 - at Cape Coral-x
Sept. 30 - at Bayshore
Oct. 6 - vs. Lehigh-x
Oct. 14 - at DeSoto County
Oct. 21 - vs. Estero-x
Oct. 28 - at East Lee County-x
Nov. 4 - vs. Mariner-x
Head coach: Michael Thornton ('09), 3rd year (5-15)
Assistants: Pat McCarthy (off. line), Scott Schaffer (def. line), Robert Eady (DB), Jordan Green (RB), Jason Smith (freshmen).
Team Colors: Purple & White
Stadium: Panther Field, 6750 Panther Lane, Fort Myers
Playoff History: 1983 - Bradenton Southeast 12, Cypress Lake 7; 1995 - Sarasota 28, Cypress Lake 14; 2000 - St. Thomas Aquinas 37, Cypress Lake 0. 2006 - Washington 55, Cypress Lake 0
Home: 3-3 Away: 1-3 District: 2-4
Fort Myers 14, Cypress 13
Cypress 13, Island Coast 6
South Fort Myers 39, Cypress 0
Naples 44, Naples 21
Barron Collier 28, Cypress 19
Golden Gate 20, Cypress 7
Cypress 28, Lely 20
East Lee County 27, Cypress 24
Cypress 21, Lehigh 13
Cypress 34, Estero 28