The most accomplished run in the Cape Coral High School football program’s 35-year history ended in disappointing fashion last season as the defensively challenged and offensively inconsistent Seahawks won just four games, their first losing season since 2003.
If early season results are any indication, Cape Coral will start a new streak of success in 2013, propelled in part by a pair of offensive standouts.
Junior quarterback Dylan Bontrager and senior running back Eamon Smart are the centerpieces of a fast-paced Seahawks’ attack that is averaging 43 points per game, including a 41-point outburst in a confidence-building preseason win against Riverdale.
Tonight’s matchup against visiting Estero, which features a similarly explosive offense under new head coach Mark Jackson, figures to light up the scoreboard and provide a showcase for one of the most improved signal-callers in Southwest Florida.
The 5-foot-10, 165-pound Bontrager doesn’t cut an overly imposing figure on the field, but opposing defenses should be intimidated by his fast start. The junior completed 58 percent of his passes and threw for 285 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s 45-14 win at East Lee County. Of equal importance, according to Seahawks coach Larry Gary, is the leadership Bontrager’s shown since being named the team’s starter in the spring.
“He texted me at the end of the spring and asked if he could call a team meeting,” said Gary, who’s in his second season as Cape’s head coach. “All this school choice stuff where kids bail out, he basically wanted to know who was on board and if you’re weren’t, then get out. To me, that showed this is his team.”
Last season, Bontrager saw action in seven games, subbing for then-starter Trey Daniels, who was hampered for much of the season by an ankle injury. He threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns with four interceptions. More valuable, however, was getting a crash course in running the Seahawks’ offense.
“I didn’t know a whole lot when I came in last year,” Bontrager said. “It showed me what I needed to work on in the offseason so I could be ready this year.”
Gary said Bontrager’s improvement is off the charts.
“He’s making great reads on the field,” Gary said. “Like the kids say, his swagger, his confidence is so much better. He’s smart and he’s a great athlete back there.”
Bontrager also gets a boost from the presence of Smart, one of the area’s most underrated backs. The 5-foot-10, 215-pound bulldozer ran for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns last season as the one constant in Cape’s sporadic attack. The improvement in the Seahawks’ passing game will provide more running lanes for Smart and force opposing defenses to scheme against a balanced attack.
“Last year, there was a lot more pressure on me,” Smart said. “But Dylan’s one of the better quarterbacks I’ve ever played with. We’ve got each other’s back. If the passing game’s not working, they know they can give me the ball and something good is going to happen.”
Both Bontrager and Smart are focused on getting Cape Coral back into the playoffs for the sixth time in the past seven seasons.
“We want to turn this program around,” Bontrager said. “None of us want to go 4-6 again, especially for the seniors. We want to bring the winning tradition back.”