The offseason certainly took a toll on Immokalee’s football program.
The starting quarterback last season, Louis Gachette, is at the University of South Florida. The offensive line returns just one starter, junior Estra Dupree. The departure of four longtime assistants has changed the face of the staff as coach John Weber begins his 10th season leading Immokalee.
But the offseason also produced a pleasant rarity for Weber.
“I have a transfer from LaBelle,” he said. “He’s the first kid in nine years who ever transferred to Immokalee. Guys in Fort Myers and Naples bounce around all the time.”
The transfer, junior Randy Gilbert, will vie with senior Phillip Perez for the opportunity to replace Gachette. Weber is concerned about both players’ lack of experience, but an even bigger worry is the group in front of the quarterback.
“There were no linemen (who were) in the junior class last year and that has really hurt us,” Weber said. “A junior class with no linemen can kill you, I don’t care if you’re 2A or 5A. You have to drop down to using sophomores and it’s hard for them to play against varsity linemen.”
Dupree got away with it as a sophomore last season because he was surrounded by four seniors. Now he’s being called upon to lead the group of sophomores and green seniors next to him. Dupree is listed at tackle but might be moved to guard; Weber wants him to call assignments along the line.
Much of the work involves path-clearing for junior halfback Javarris James, a second-team selection to The News-Press All-Area Team who rushed for 1,145 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. But Weber suspects that opponents will force Immokalee to the air.
“I know what people are going to do,” Weber said. “They’re going to put nine people in the box and dare us to throw the ball. We’re going to have to take pressure off the running game.”
Rodelin Anthony could become a big release valve. The 6-foot-5 senior is shifting to wideout after playing tight end last season.
“With his speed and height, the coaches said he should play receiver this year,” James said. “All you have to do is throw the ball up and he jumps and gets it.”
News-Press file photo
* Immokalee running back Javarris James (20) gained 1,145 yards as a sophomore last year.