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Gators face growing pains
August 11, 2017

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Change is the one constant in high school football. Players are with a team for a season or two, sometimes three or four, and then they are gone.

Graduation, transfers, injuries, families moving out of the area all take their toll.

For the last three years, there was one constant when the Island Coast Gators took the field. Kory Curtis was the quarterback.

Not only is Curtis gone now, but so are top rusher, Jerry Cambric, and the top three receivers of a year ago. As a result, coach John Schwochow will send a very different offensive unit on the field this fall.

"We've still got some good kids, and some kids who can play," Schwochow said.

The Gators have sophomores and some freshmen, who will be counted on to contribute this season.

"It's coming along. We're going to be kind of young," Schwochow said. "We've got to solidify some stuff. We have some kids who had a pretty good summer. Sometimes that's the key. You get kids who don't know where they are in the spring, but two months of working out, getting bigger, stronger, faster, they catch on a little bit."

Senior William Jenkins, who moved to Cape Coral from Indiana this year, will take over for Curtis as the Gators' starting quarterback.

"He's coming along pretty good, so we're coming along," Schwochow said. "He's getting situated. They're (offensive teammates) paying attention to him. That's a plus."

The Gators' pass-oriented attack from the Curtis years will become more balanced with Jenkins at the helm.

"It'll probably be a little more run-oriented," Schwochow said. "We're still going to throw the ball. We're not going to look like Air Coryell, but we're not going to be Marty Schottenheimer either," Schwochow said referring to the contrasting offensive styles of two former NFL coaches.

"We don't have a Kory, but the young man we have has the attributes that Kory had, and he can run," Schwochow added. "We'll run the ball a little more, but still throw it around a bit."

Dylan Shipley, who quarterbacked the freshman team last year, and fellow sophomore Isaiah Graham, are Jenkins' backups.

At running back, Schwochow said, "We have a kid named Treigh Harigan who moved into the area from Lehigh. We have Clifton Henderson, who was one of our defensive backs last year, and we've got Damien Jennings, who's probably going to be our starter. We've got different kids and they've all got different styles."

A youngster could make a quick splash in the receiving corps as well.

"Jacob Harden, who's going to be a freshman, he's looking pretty good at receiver," Schwochow said.

On defense not only did some key Gators graduate, but two top defensive backs from a year ago transferred to other Lee County schools. So the defense will feature a lot of new faces this season.

"We've been figuring things out after the spring game," Schwochow said. "Like, this guy's going to be better over here, or this guy's going to be better."

For example, "Omari Smith is stepping up," Schwochow said of the junior defensive back.

Jamar Eason, the team's leading tackler a year ago, also returns.

The Gators are hoping for big things from sophomore Tzion Hamilton, 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds, in the middle of that defensive unit. Hamilton joins the squad after missing out on the spring game.

"He's good to go," Schwochow said. "The defensive line, those are the guys who had a pretty good summer. Hopefully, with moving a couple of guys and getting Tzion in there and guys getting stronger, we'll see the rewards from that."

Island Coast opens the season at Cypress Lake, and home against Mariner and Bradenton Bayshore before beginning District 6A-10 play at North Fort Myers.

Schwochow is looking at those three games to get his kids prepared for district competition.

"We don't have to go 3-0, but 2-1 would be good," Schwochow said, "to give these guys some confidence and momentum."

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