The Bishop Verot Vikings had a tough time of it last year. Playing in District 6A-11 "pool of death" against the heavyweights of Southwest Florida in Riverdale and Fort Myers, they took a beating.
With enrollment down and a team playing way over its head, Bishop Verot dropped back to three-team District 3A-6 for this season, giving it a chance to compete against programs its own size in Out-of-Door Academy and Cardinal Mooney.
The Vikings picked the right time to do it, with a senior-laden lineup that went through the growing pains of a 1-9 campaign a year ago.
Bishop Verot junior Quinn Farrell throws the ball downfield during a recent practice.
Head coach Phil Dorn expects his entire offensive line to return this season, along with many of its skill players to run his pro-style offense.
"We have a great group of kids back. We have 25 seniors and we're excited about new opportunities and the new schedule that's appropriate to our enrollment," Dorn said. "It has led to a renewal of our kids coming out. We have 100 kids 9 through 12."
Junior quarterback Quinn Farrell returns as starter and will throw to senior receivers Grant Suroski and Beau Fortier and senior tight end C.J. Spiro, which should allow the Vikings to throw when they want to instead of when they need to.
Bishop Verot Vikings
(All games 7:30 p.m.)
Aug. 23 - vs. Ida Baker (preseason)
Aug. 30 - at Fort Myers
Sept. 6 - at Lemon Bay, 7 p.m.
Sept. 12 - vs. North Borward Prep, 7 p.m.
Sept. 20 - vs. Doral Academy
Sept. 27 - vs. LaBelle
Oct. 4 - at Out-of-Door Academy-x, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11 - at Clewiston
Oct. 25 - vs. Lake Placid
Nov. 1 - vs. Cardinal Mooney-x
Nov. 8 - at North Fort Myers
n Head Coach: Phil Dorn, ninth season (33-47)
n Assistants: Lenarick Thomas (DB), Rich Marasco (LB/DC), Rod Williams (DL), Dale Cole (OL), Cleve Grable (TE), Derek Bachman (WR), Phil Dorn (RB/QB/OC).
n Team Colors: Black & gold
n Stadium: Viking Stadium, 5598 Sunrise Drive, Fort Myers
n Class/District: 3A-6
n Playoff History: 1990 - Verot 30, Pine Crest 7; Verot 34, Frostproof 33 (Regionals); Bolles 17, Verot 14 (2A Championship); 1991 - Verot 34, Pine Crest 6; Frostproof 7, Verot 6 (Regional); 1994 - Verot 20, Ransom Everglades 10; Verot 22, Frostproof 6; Verot 30, LaBelle 6 (Regionals); Union County 21, Verot 0 (3A Championship); 1997 - Avon Park 46, Verot 14; 1998 - Verot 21, Lake Placid 13; Tampa Catholic 17, Verot 14; 2000 - Clearwater Central Catholic 49, Verot 42; 2001 - Verot 45, Clearwater Central Catholic 0; Verot 20, Avon Park 6; Clewiston 49, Verot 17; 2002 - Verot 68, St. Pete Catholic 13; Clewiston 30, Verot 27 OT. 2007 - Clewiston 26, Verot 13.
Home: 0-4 Away: 1-5
Mariner 38, Verot 20
Cardinal Mooney 23, Verot 20
Naples 61, Verot 0
x-South Fort Myers 56, Verot 3
x-Riverdale 28, Verot 0
x-Ida Baker 42, Verot 6
x-Island Coast 55, Verot 0
x-Verot 37, North Fort Myers 7
x-Fort Myers 48, Verot 7
Estero 45, Verot 28
"We're pretty balanced run and pass, but with Farrell we feel we can have the tools to have an effective passing game," Dorn said.
Fullback Steve Brown will make holes for running back Leslie Green, with the help of an offensive line that returns intact, lead by center Kody Herting, left guard Thomas Anthony and right tackle Quinn Kavanagh.
"Our line all played together last year and we're expecting a great season from them," Dorn said.
The Vikings switch between a 4-3 and 3-4 defense, and that front seven returns most of its starters with Roodley Fleurantin and Matt McMurray at the tackles and sophomore Aiden Maribona in the middle. Scott Gislason will come in from the edge in the 4-3 scheme.
Matt King and Tommy Dean will play inside linebacker, with Jake Bowlin and Pierce LaPrey playing the outside.
Only in the secondary are positions there for the taking. Mike Johnsrud and Weston Cole look to have the inside track at the corners while seniors Jack Kavanagh and Brandon Doyle will roam at safety.
Bishop Verot will keep Fort Myers and North Fort Myers on its schedule, both on the road. It also plays new rivals such as Lemon Bay and Clewiston on the road and host Lake Placid and Cardinal Mooney.
Dorn said he has high hopes for his squad, and with its experience, it doesn't have anywhere to go but up.
"We have the makings of a team that can compete for a district championship and a playoff berth. Last year, we only had three starting seniors on each side of the ball. We were a very young team," Dorn said. "Everybody is back so that's a good thing."
So is not playing against teams twice your size.