The Ida Baker Bulldogs are ready for bigger and better things after a seven-win season a year ago.
Coach Brian Conn's team won five of its last six games in 2012, just missing the playoffs.
This time the Bulldogs don't plan on missing out.
Ida Baker junior quarterback Sage Attwood looks to surpass his 15 touchdowns passing and five running TDs from a year ago.
"We definitely have high expectations for this team," Conn said. "Our number one goal is to be district champ. It's something no team at the school has done, and it's a realistic goal for us.
"Obviously a lot of things have to fall in place for us and we have to continue to work hard, but that's definitely where our mindset is right now."
Conn began prepping Baker for a playoff season back in the spring, taking on SW Florida heavyweight Naples.
Ida Baker Bulldogs
(All games 7:30 p.m.)
Aug. 23 - at Bishop Verot (preseason)
Aug. 30 - at Island Coast
Sept. 6 - at Key West
Sept. 13 - vs. Cape Coral
Sept. 20 - vs. Riverdale
Sept. 27 - at Estero
Oct. 4 - vs. Lehigh-x
Oct. 11 - at Booker
Oct. 18 - at South Fort Myers-x
Oct. 25 - vs. Charlotte
Nov. 1 - vs. East Lee County-x
Head Coach: Brian Conn (9th year, 32-49) Assistants: Dwayne Mack (DC), Ira Riggins (DB), Pat O'Brien (S), Fernando Vasquez (LB), Scott Griffith (DL), Michael Weiner (OL), Hunter Urraro (WR), David Pasquale (TE, Slot), Bobby Boye (RB), Snake Penwall (video).
Team Colors: Black, Blue & Silver
Nickname: Bulldogs Stadium: 3500 Agualinda Blvd.
Class/District: 6A-12 Playoff History: 2009 - Charlotte 27, Ida Baker 7.
Home: 3-2 Away: 4-1 District: 4-2
Estero 16, Baker 7
Baker 30, Cape Coral 20
Baker 28, Port Charlotte 21
Island Coast 23, Baker 20 -x
Baker 42, Bishop Verot 6 -x
Baker 51, North Fort Myers 0 -x
Baker 38, Riverdale 17 -x
Fort Myers 30, Baker 27 -x
Baker 15, South Fort Myers 14 -x
Baker 47, Mariner 20
Much of the optimism at Baker surrounds the offense. Quarterback Sage Attwood came on after a slow start as a sophomore, winding up with 15 touchdown passes and running for five more scores.
"If you look at his game one compared to the end of the season in game 10 it's night and day," said Conn. "The first game you could tell he was very nervous, not 100 percent comfortable. I think he had three or four turnovers by himself. The progress that he made, week in and week out, learning the offense, making the right reads. About game three we went to a no-huddle and I think he was more comfortable with that. He's come into his own and he's got to be one of the best in the area."
Four seniors anchor the offensive line - Levi Walton, Brett Fenske, Philip Monroe and Wilfred Dillard - and most of last year's receiving and running corps is back. Wide receiver Roy Denson had eight touchdown catches a year ago.
There is a different look to the defense. A lot of the size up front is gone, including defensive end Brian Johnson. Johnson (119 tackles, including 10 quarterback sacks) who signed with Penn State, while fellow defensive lineman Regie Meant got a scholarship to Kentucky.
Conn said this year's defense won't have the size of last year's unit, but instead will rely on speed.
"They'll move around," Conn said. "We've got a lot of speed on the defense. Last year we were a bit more stout with two big defensive linemen who went Division I. A little bit different look with this year's unit ,but we've definitely got speed on our side."
Anchoring the defense is linebacker Tyler Iverson, beginning his third season as a defensive starter. He also has a year as an offensive starter on his resume.
Trayvon Clarke returns to handle punting and kickoffs, while Filander Barajona is Baker's new placekicker. Barajona just made the conversion from soccer to football last spring, kicking in the spring game against Naples.
In a time of frequent player transfers in Southwest Florida, Baker neither lost nor gained players through transfer over the summer. So the Bulldogs have stability in that respect.
"We have had in the past," said Conn. "This year we had one kid come in back in the spring and he went right back after the spring. We haven't gained or lost, which in my opinion is a good thing. You get people in the system for a couple of years and they feel more comfortable. You experience continuity in the locker room, which is the big thing."
Baker doesn't have a lot of depth this year.
"I think that's the way it is in Lee County and maybe Southwest Florida," Conn said. "We've got 58 guys on the top two levels. When you break that down you're looking at 30 to 35 on the varsity. A lot of two-way guys. We have more depth than we had in the spring game. We had a couple of guys who were out with injury or suspension that will be back."
With realignment, Baker plays in the four-team District 6A-12 that includes just one district foe from a year ago, South Fort Myers. Lehigh and East Lee County move up from 5A to join Baker and South.
Baker defeated South last year, but the Wolfpack wound up making the playoffs along with Island Coast in the old 6A-11.
Cape Coral area rivals Island Coast and Cape Coral highlight the Bulldogs' non-district opponents.