Dunbar High’s football schedule is loaded.
Non-district games with Naples, South Fort Myers and Riverdale start the season.
District games include Island Coast and Lemon Bay and the regular-season finale is against Fort Myers.
By winning championships in 7-on-7 games in Alabama and Mississippi, going 14-2 and beating teams including Miami Northwestern and Tuscaloosa (Ala.) Central, the Tigers go into this season with confidence.
A lot of confidence.
“It brought us together,” wide receiver/defensive back Tarzje Battle said. “We played together, same for defensive backs and wide receivers. The communication was better and it’s a position we have to get to.”
“I think it definitely helped,” wide receiver/defensive back Joe Williams said. “We had real good intensity about passing the ball. There’s good chemistry with the quarterback. It will help us in the long run.”
“We’re better,” said quarterback Daniel Cobb, who noted the team won a tournament in Georgia two years ago. “We didn’t give up.”
Cobb has noticed a steady improvement from last year. He’s taking off to run less and getting the ball out of his hand quicker. His verbal and non-verbal communication has improved.
“We need more work,” wide receiver/defensive back Reyshene Bronson said. “We’re good but we’re not there. We want to master it. Now we can look at each other and call audibles.”
In Friday’s preseason game against Lehigh, Dunbar showed the makings of a potent passing attack with Cobb throwing TD strikes to Bronson and Jaylin White, while also hitting Robert Byrd for 48 yards, Breon Brown for 26 and Bronson for 32 more.
“We got a whole bunch of talent at receiver,” Williams said.
Battle said the competition in practices between the receivers and DBs makes both groups better.
“You have to guard the best to be the best,” he said. “Practicing against the best daily, you’re trying to get each other better and better and better. We always trash talk. You gotta. Having trash talking pushes us more.”
Players said they’re excited about playing rivals who they competed with and against in Pop Warner. Dunbar coach Phil Vogt scheduled most of the elite in Southwest Florida because he wanted to play tougher teams.
“You don’t get better playing buttercups,” Vogt said.
He knows Naples will be a handful because of its history, line play and the fact that Dunbar is ranked higher than the Eagles in some polls. He’s counting on Naples coach Bill Kramer to use that as motivation.
“And I don’t blame them,” he said. “They’re the only team that was undefeated in Southwest Florida last year. They handily defeated Immokalee with all those Division I guys who went to the state championship. They feel like they’ve been disrespected. I’d use that, too.”
Naples’ level is where Vogt wants to get his team. To do that, they need to be more disciplined and commit less penalties. They had 85 yards in penalties against Lehigh.
Can the Tigers be among the elite and reach the players’ goal — the state championship?
“Ask me in November,” Vogt said. “It’s a work in progress. It always is.”