Island Coast dominated both sides of the line against East Lee County Friday night, and defeated the Jaguars 41-0 in the preseason classic game for both teams at Jaguar Stadium.
For Gator coach Joe Bowen, it's the continuation of a strong football program he's built at Island Coast.
"We have a returning O-line," he said. "We have enough players (offensive and defensive) that they're only going one way."
Along with both lines being set, Island Coast is stacked with skill players, including some quality transfers from other local schools. Friday night, they used several running backs, wide receivers, and quarterbacks to rack up lots of yardage, and score six touchdowns. Their offense was well balanced, with four different players scoring touchdowns. Several times the runningbacks broke through the line for big gains.
In contrast, East Lee County is in a rebuilding mode.
"It was exciting!" said East Lee coach Dave Smith. "Now we know where we're at, and we need to build on that. We're a young team, with a whole new front eight on defense."
Last season East Lee won its district for the first time. The championship was especially sweet for a school only in its seventh year of existence at the time. The team was loaded with experienced players, and had speed and strength at almost every position. But, for the Jaguars, most of the pieces of that championship team were lost to graduation.
Twenty-three are gone. As a first-year head coach, Smith inherited only four starters. That was evident during this game. The Jaguars still have some experienced players at the skill positions, but the offensive line was young, and had difficulty establishing a running game or protecting their quarterback.
Ultimately, it was the Gators' experience and size that made them dominant on the line, and was the difference in the game.
The weather was not a factor during the game, with no showers or lightning. However, both teams suffered from a lack of practice time because of inclement weather throughout the week.
"I think we got one hour on the field all week." said Smith. "Next week, we'll also have 20 new guys who will be eligible to play."
The FHSAA requires a protocol of steps to follow in preparing players for the season, and the weather has prevented the Jaguars and other teams from fulfilling those requirements.
Bowen also saw areas for improvement.
"It was a sloppy night, with lots of penalties." he said. "Our emphasis this week will be on correcting mental mistakes."
Island Coast 14 7 13 7 - 41
East Lee County 0 0 0 0 - 0
IC - Bourque 17 run (Elg kick)
IC - White 5 run (Elg kick)
IC - Bourque 2 run (Elg kick)
IC - Russaw 2 run (Elg kick)
IC - Washington 11 pass from Bourque (run failed)
IC - Russaw 12 run (Elg kick)