* Teams: Charlotte, Fort Myers, Port Charlotte, Riverdale
* Outlook: This shapes up to be the most competitive district in Southwest Florida with all four teams having legitimate cases for claiming the championship. Fort Myers (8-2) won the most games of the quartet in 2012, but found itself out of the playoff picture after squandering leads in consecutive losses to Island Coast and South Fort Myers. One of the Green Wave’s victories came at the expense of Charlotte (6-5), which eventually came out on top in a three-team tiebreaker with Lemon Bay and Port Charlotte to earn the 7A-11 title. The Tarpons lost 35-32 to visiting Stuart Martin County in 7A-3 quarterfinal, marking the second straight year Charlotte lost its playoff opener at home to the Tigers. Port Charlotte (7-3) is often eclipsed by their crosstown rival Charlotte but under new coach and school alum Jordan Ingman, the Pirates broke through last season, posting their most wins in more than a decade. Port Charlotte also knocked off the Tarpons 13-0 for just its third win versus Charlotte. For the second year in a row, significant injuries doomed Riverdale (5-5), which also coughed up halftime leads in consecutive crucial district losses to South Fort Myers and Baker. With a spate of good health, the Raiders have the early district edge with backs Van Edwards and Byron Dean representing the district’s best offensive tandem and a talented defensive back seven. The schedule also favors Riverdale, which will play two of its three district foes (Fort Myers and Charlotte) at home.
* Predicted order of finish: 1. Riverdale, 2. Fort Myers, 3. Port Charlotte, 4. Charlotte
2012 Record: 6-5Coach: Binky WaldropPlayers to watch: Tony Blanding (Sr., DL), Trey Hoff (Sr., LB), Brennan McGill (Sr., QB), Forrest Palmore (Sr., OL), Billy Pesti (Sr., OL), Marquell Platt (So., RB), Dwayne Reynolds (Sr., DB/WR), Dwight Reynolds (Sr., WR/DB), Trent White (Sr., ATH)Outlook: The Tarpons lost 22 seniors from last year’s team and will need a number of young players to step into key positions. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Palmore is the lone starter returning for up front for Charlotte. McGill is back after a season-ending knee injury and has a pair of big-play targets in the Reynolds’ twins. White transferred from North Port last week after leading the Bobcats with 1,356 passing yards and eight touchdowns last year. Defensively, the Tarpons have good size but lack speed, something that could prove troublesome.
2012 Record: 8-2Coach: Sam Sirianni Jr.Players to watch: Eric Briggs (Sr., ATH), James Brunson (Jr., ATH), Lucas Caserio (Sr., OL), Macensley Coby (Sr., DB), George Davis (Jr., ATH), Dylan DeGroot (Jr., QB), Terrance Moore (Jr., RB), T.J. Morgan (Sr., ATH), Daniel Oak (Sr., OL), Ryan Watts (Jr., DL) Outlook: This has the potential to be the most talented rosters in Southwest Florida. The Green Wave’s success will hinge how well their juniors progress, especially DeGroot. Morgan and Moore provide an effective tandem in the backfield and the 6-foot-3, 270-pound Oak is one of the area’s best linemen. Defensively, Fort Myers’ strength will be a secondary highlighted by Brunson and Colby. Overall, the team lacks size but will look to make up for it with speed. A move up to 7A should produce a fantastic district race.
2012 Record: 7-3Coach: Jordan IngmanPlayers to watch: Ian Bush (Sr., DT), Paulsin Heitter (Jr., WR), Jacques Jean-Louis (Sr., WR/DB), Kedzen Jarvis (Jr., G), Jake Hobbs (Sr., LB), Traige McClary (Sr., QB), Darren Price (Sr., LB), Teddy Spikes (Sr., ATH), Malik Vaccaro-Dixon (Jr., WR)Outlook: The Pirates return 18 starters from last year’s team, which was the odd team out in a three-team postseason tiebreaker with district rivals Charlotte and Lemon Bay. The 6-foot, 185-pound McClary added 15 pounds to his slight frame and is equally adept at making plays with his arm and legs. Hobbs and Price lead a talented defense that surrendered 16.6 points per game last season.
2012 Record: 5-5Coach: Rob HinsonPlayers to watch: Austin Alphonso (Jr., LB), Byron Dean (Sr., RB), Van Edwards (Jr., RB), Donovan Gayle (So., DL), Blayne Mallow (Sr., LB), Ryan Pulley (Jr., WR/DB), Malcolm Smith (Sr., WR), Wes Viola (Sr., OL) Outlook: The injury bug took a serious bite out of the Raiders in 2012, as the team’s best offensive (Dean) and defensive (Pulley) players suffered season-ending injuries. Edwards kept Riverdale’s run-heavy offense humming, rushing for 1,407 yards and 13 touchdowns. Teaming him with the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Dean will create serious problems for opposing defenses. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Pulley showed he’s capable of taking away a team’s best receiving target and provides Riverdale with a breakaway threat in the return game. The Raiders should be fast and physical on defense.