They know each other’s tendencies, and they recognize the magnitude of their matchup.
Island Coast quarterback Kurt Benkert and Fort Myers quarterback T.J. Douglas, both seniors, will put aside the camaraderie they developed as summertime teammates. Then, they will get down to business at 7:30 tonight at Fort Myers High School’s Sam Sirianni Field at Edison Stadium.
This matchup will play a major role in deciding the District 6A-11 champion and runner-up in Lee County’s largest district, with both teams yet to play fellow undefeated district rival South Fort Myers.
“The winner of this game will probably be in the playoffs, and the loser is probably going to be out, because I don’t think either one of them is going to beat South,” said Geoff Vogt, who evaluates area high school players for scout.com.
Vogt is quite familiar with the two starting quarterbacks.
Benkert and Douglas were teammates on the Team 239 seven-on-seven team Vogt coached this summer, with Benkert starting at quarterback and Douglas at wide receiver, his projected position next fall at Duke University.
Benkert verbally committed to play quarterback at East Carolina. Lincoln Riley, the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at East Carolina, told Bruce Benkert, Kurt’s father, that he would attend tonight’s game.
“This game will tell us a lot about where we are as a team, that’s for sure,” Kurt Benkert said of facing the Green Wave.
Douglas said being teammates with Benkert could help when facing him as a defensive back. Douglas plays defense as well.
“I’m happy I had an opportunity to play with another elite quarterback,” Douglas said of the Team 239 experience. “I have a feeling for his timing. This will be a fun game. I’m just going to go out there and try to help my team. I’m really excited to play against them, because it’s one of the only teams I haven’t played against in Lee County.”
Benkert and Douglas share something else in common. Neither one of them played in the game last season. When Island Coast defeated Fort Myers 37-7, Benkert, who did not miss any games last season, was starting at quarterback for Cape Coral High School. Douglas was sidelined by a concussion.
The Green Wave recovered from the loss and went on to win the district title. South Fort Myers finished second, and Island Coast failed to reach the postseason.
“This is a must-win game for both teams,” Island Coast coach Joe Bowen said. “They looked impressive on film. It’s going to be an uphill battle for us.”
Bowen compared the two quarterbacks.
“I would say Kurt is more of a prototypical passer,” Bowen said. “T.J. can make plays on his feet. He’s more of a dual threat versus Kurt. Where Kurt’s going to hurt you is with his arm. T.J. can hurt you both ways.”
Through five games, the 6-foot-3 Benkert has compiled bigger offensive numbers. He has completed 65-of-107 passes for 1,039 yards and 10 touchdowns with three interceptions. Douglas, who stands 6-1, has completed 29-of-63 passes for 259 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. On the ground, Douglas has rushed 73 times for 469 yards and eight touchdowns. Benkert has rushed 38 times for 187 yards and two touchdowns.
“Kurt is the dropback, throw the ball around the field type of a guy,” Vogt said. “T.J. is more of a new age type quarterback. It’s tougher to defend T.J. in some ways, because you have to account for him taking off and running. At the high school level, there’s a strong case that T.J. is a better quarterback, because he can do more things to hurt you.
“But Island Coast has T.J. Johnson and Devon Calhoun and guys who can run the football. Kurt’s a little more accurate and consistent at throwing the ball than T.J. is. They’re definitely both great quarterbacks at the high school level.”
They both share the intangible quality of being good leaders, Vogt said.
“Absolutely,” Vogt said. “Both kids have that aspect to them in that they both want to win. That’s why they’re both so successful. They both made the playoffs last year, too, which was a good sign for both off them.”