Island Coast High School is looking to stay on a roll.
The Gators have posted four consecutive winning seasons, including three trips to the playoffs.
Coach Joe Bowen's team lost some offensive stars from last season's 8-3 campaign, but still has enough returning talent to keep fans optimistic.
Island Coast senior Caleb Stewart fights off a block by teammate Kyle Overhoff during a preseason practice.
"We have some players that we think can step up," Bowen said. "We're still going to run a multiple offense, we're still going to mix things around. Overall, we have some young kids that we think can learn from the upperclassmen that they were with last year."
Quarterback Kurt Benkert is gone after a season in which he passed for 2,261 yards and 20 touchdowns. He's entering his freshman year at East Carolina University.
Ready to step in is the understudy from a year ago, Quinn Bourque. Bourque played in eight games as a sophomore a season ago and took the reins for the spring game back in May.
Island Coast Gators
(All games 7:30 p.m.)
Aug. 23 - at East Lee County (preseason)
Aug. 30 - vs. Ida Baker
Sept. 6 - at Riverdale.
Sept. 13 - vs. South Fort Myers
Sept. 20 - at Lemon Bay-x
Sept. 27 - at Mariner-x
Oct. 4 - vs. Cape Coral-x
Oct. 11 - at North Fort Myers-x
Oct. 18 - vs. Cypress Lake-x
Oct. 25 - vs. Dunbar-x
Nov. 1 - at University
Head Coach: Joe Bowen ('08), sixth season (35-16)
Assistants: Chris Sneddon (OC), Terry Hauser (DC), Mitch Curliss (WR), Chito Ramos (JV), Greg Coleman (JV), Jim O'Brien (Fresh.), R.C. Cowell (RB), Fred Crump.
Team Colors: Hunter Green & Vegas Gold
Stadium: 2125 Del Navarra Pkwy., Cape Coral.
Playoff History: 2009 - Lake Highland Prep 28, Island Coast 0. 2010 - Island Coast 28, Tampa Catholic 0; Island Coast 42, Lake Highland Prep 21; Ft. Lauderdale University School 34, Island Coast 28. 2012 - Naples 45, Island Coast 7.
Home: 5-0 Away: 3-3 Dist.: 5-1
University School 44, IC 27
IC 51, Estero 20
IC 52, Mariner 7
IC 48, North Fort Myers 0-x
IC 23, Ida Baker 20-x
IC 24, Fort Myers 21-x
IC 55, Bishop Verot 0-x
South FM 41, IC 17-x
IC 31, Riverdale 14-x
IC 42, Cape Coral 17
Naples 45, IC 7
"He's been in the system now for over a year and he knows the system," Bowen said.
Running back is another matter. Devon Calhoun was the mainstay of the running game a year ago, gaining 1,098 yards, scoring 12 touchdowns on the ground and totaling 14 touchdowns.
Calhoun signed with Ellsworth Community College in Iowa.
Bowen said the Gators will rely on a runningback-by-committee approach this season.
Bourque and the runners will have the benefit of experience along the offensive line where four starters return.
"Right now they're still all young," Bowen said. "Last year we started a lot of sophomores. Now they're juniors and we're still sorting things out."
While top receiver Trevor Johnson (38 receptions, seven TDs) is gone, the majority of the receiving corps returns include James Washington, Tarique Bodrick and Torien Thomas.
Joey Lantz, who started at quarterback for Mariner last season as a sophomore, and former Tritons teammate Jshod Thornton have joined the Gators for 2013.
"They're still trying to learn the system," Bowen said. "We also lost some kids to transfers. It's the lovely system that we have. They come and go. Some of them, hopefully, will contribute."
On defense, both starting ends return. Bowen said the interior of the defensive line will be strong - "a three-deep rotation in there."
Zach Lachman, who played all 10 games last year as a freshman, starts at linebacker along with Christian Banasiak, and there's some returning depth behind those two.
Willie Overstreet, Nick Guffey and Theodore Mitchell are among those returning from the defensive secondary of a year ago.
"Right now we think our strength is, we've been in the system now for over a year," said Bowen. "They feel that familiarity with the system. We feel good about it, so we'll go from there."
One of the biggest changes Gators fans will notice this fall is the schedule.
Island Coast moved from Class 6A to 5A, and the lineup of district opponents reflects that. Gone are Fort Myers, South Fort Myers and Ida Baker, replaced by Cape Coral, Mariner, Lemon Bay and Dunbar, among others. Both Dunbar (4A) and Lemon Bay (7A) were playoff teams a year ago.
"You've got Dunbar, that every year, year in and year out, is going to be a powerhouse," said Bowen. "Cape Coral High School is going to be pretty big and pretty physical. Lemon Bay, they were very successful last year. North Fort Myers, Mariner, you have all these rivals. They're going to be fights. They're going to be good games."
Ida Baker remains on the schedule, a challenging season opener that follows the Gators' kickoff classic against East Lee County, the District 5A-11 champs in 2012. South Fort Myers, which edged Island Coast out of the District 6A-11 title last year, is also a non-district opponent this season.
"The first three games of the year are good games. You have Ida Baker, Riverdale, South. Those are some pretty tough ball clubs," Bowen said.