It was seven months ago, but the scars are still fresh.
On that fall night in October, then-junior quarterback Dylan Bontrager trudged slowly off the field after Cape Coral's 15-point loss to Dunbar, realizing the Seahawks' shot at a district playoff berth was missed.
"It hit me," Bontrager said then, his reddened eyes portraying a mix of emotion and fatigue. "This was a playoff game for us. I had faith. I'm gonna remember it for a while. It's hard to let this one go."
Quarterback Dylan Bontrager returns for his senior year at quarterback for the Seahawks.
Seven months later and coach Larry Gary is counting on that sting as a motivation heading into tonight's spring classic against Bayshore.
"Our goal will always be to win the district," Gary said this week. "We did fall short last year, but that is not stopping us. We do look back on last season to review how we can get better - better condition, have confidence, be smarter and trust yourself."
Cape High wound up 8-3 in 2013, but was third in the District 5A-14 chase behind Island Coast and Dunbar, the teams responsible for the Seahawks' two losses in six league games. It was a three-game boost from a 5-6 record a year earlier, which gives Gary reason for springtime optimism.
"The purpose of spring football is so that we can fill the holes that seniors that graduated left open and for our returning players to get better," he said. "My introductory message is have a positive attitude and to work hard."
Bontrager headlines a talented group of returnees who'll operate offensively out of the spread set that powered the Seahawks to at least 32 points in eight of 11 games, in which they went 7-1.
The Seahawks won a defense-heavy 7-5 decision over North Fort Myers, and was also held in check in the aforementioned losses to both the Gators (34-14) and the Tigers (24-9).
In nine games, Bontrager completed 127 of 247 passes (51.4 percent) for 1,870 yards and 23 touchdowns, alongside 13 interceptions. He also carried the ball 34 times for 184 yards with one score.
Returning senior Elliot Pierce stepped in ably when Bontrager was sidelined with a concussion and completed 22 of 53 passes for 188 yards, two scores and four interceptions.
Gary said having two capable and experienced signalcallers is a significant asset for 2014.
"That's very big to have a veteran quarterback," he said. "They both bring experience to the team and during the offseason they need to continue their training in the weight room, condition, continue to throw the football and be a part of many 7-on-7 programs."
Bontrager's all-around prowess will be vital in the post-graduation absence of Eamon Smart, the workhorse running back who led the 2013 Seahawks in carries (215), yards (1,537) and touchdowns (18).
"Dylan can take control of the team," Gary said. "He goes out each game to prove that he can not only master the skill, but on occasion even outperform the best players on the team. I am pleased when players take charge to make the team stronger."
The top three receiving targets also return in the form of seniors Rasheen Bailey and Austin Cole, and junior C.J. Lewis. That trio combined for 81 catches, 13 touchdowns and a 15.6-yard average. Bailey and junior Jordan Lewis were the top two rushers behind Smart and Bontrager as well, providing 254 yards and two touchdowns in part-time ball-carrying duty.
The skill position players will stay busy between now and the Aug. 22 opener at Riverdale, Gary said.
Once that first Friday night arrives, the end goal remains the same.
"Our offense is very exciting. We'll run the spread and we score points," he said. "During summer, we like to stay in contact with other coaches and we compete in 7-on-7 contests.
"This year we will try and win the district as always."