Members of this year’s Bishop Verot High School football team were not even alive the last time the Vikings won a district championship.
At 7:30 p.m. today at Vikings Stadium, they are hoping to change that.
Bishop Verot plays host to Sarasota Cardinal Mooney in a game that will decide the District 3A-6 championship. Each team has a 5-2 record and is 1-0 in the three-team district.
Bishop Verot defeated Sarasota Out of Door 56-0, and Cardinal Mooney won that matchup 62-0.
“Mooney has a better offense,” Out of Door coach Brett Timmons said. “They have a lot more offensive firepower than Verot. Mooney can move the ball up and down the field.
“In my opinion, if Verot plays hard on defense and limits explosive plays, then they have a shot.”
The Verot players said they were doing their best to stay focused.
“It’s a huge game,” senior fullback Steve Brown said. “I’ve been looking forward to this one all season. All of the summer workouts, all of the conditioning, they all come down to right now. I can’t wait for it, honestly.”
The wait for winning another title has numbered 22 years.
Not since 1990 and ’91, when current South Fort Myers coach Grant Redhead and Canterbury coach Mike Marciano were on those teams, have the Vikings won a district championship.
“Oh man,” said Mike Marciano, the starting center. He also coached the Vikings for three seasons in 2001-03 and now coaches the Canterbury team.
“We had 22 seniors,” Marciano said of the ’91 Verot team. “We were a very, very tight group of individuals. Coach Will Shields was a great coach. That’s where I like to think I get a lot of my coaching from. We felt like we should have won the state title. We overlooked Frostproof. I can remember it like it was yesterday. We were head and shoulders better than them, but we just played terrible. We lost 7-6 in the state semifinals. You know what? We could have won it all.”
The Vikings had a district title within their grasp when Marciano coached them in 2002, defeating Clewiston but losing to Pahokee.
In 1994, Bishop Verot advanced to the Class 2A state championship game but did so as a district runner-up to Immokalee.
The Vikings last played for a district title in 2007, when they lost to Tampa Catholic.
This year’s Vikings lost starting tailback Leslie Green to a season-ending injury. Brown and junior running back Jimmy Dwyer since have stepped up their games and filled the void.
“It’s going to be a huge game, the biggest game I’ve ever played in,” Dwyer said. “It’s all mental. You just have to keep yourself balanced and stay focused on what you’re doing.”
Like the Vikings, the Cardinal Mooney Cougars have a diverse offense. The difference could come down to defense.
Bishop Verot coach Phil Dorn coached at the University of Michigan as a graduate assistant in 1991, when his current team last won a title.
“They’ve got a very good quarterback who is a very accurate passer,” Bishop Verot coach Phil Dorn said of Cardinal Mooney’s Reese Vita, who has passed for 899 yards and 10 touchdowns. “They’ve been moving the ball. They have a very good running back. Really, this game is going to come down to both teams’ defenses. Whoever can stop the other team’s offense, that’s going to be the key. We’re going to have to shut down their big play. They are really playing with a lot of confidence.”
Mooney coach Josh Smithers graduated from his school in 1995 and has been the coach for seven seasons.
“It’s a game both teams are up for,” Smithers said. “We know it’s going to be a tough game, and we’re going to have to play our best game.”