Island Coast football coach Joe Bowen was forced to put a young and inexperienced defense on the field last season. The team finished 8-3 and was the District 6A-11 runner-up.
The Gators gave up an average of 43.3 points per game in the losses, but they came against Class 3A state champion University, Class 6A regional semifinalist South Fort Myers and Class 6A state semifinalist Naples.
With nine starters returning on defense, the Gators should be more disciplined and comfortable after a full year of varsity experience.
“We had a young team last year, but I don’t want to make any excuses,” Bowen said. “Those teams were tougher than us but hopefully this year we’re going to be a little bit tougher.
“Hopefully, we have learned a lot from those games and can capitalize on that to play better.”
The Gators have a throng of linemen, 18 total, with only the starting ends set at this point. Leading tackler and senior Christian Diaz (79 total tackles) returns to the defensive line as well as junior and FSU verbal commit Marlon Gonzalez.
“All the seniors from last year helped me through my growing pains,” Gonzalez said. “They taught me how to read plays and my guards better. I’ve picked it up now from their leadership a year ago.”
Island Coast implements a 4-2-5 on defense and will rotate defensive linemen to keep fresh bodies on the field.
Completing the front six are linebackers are 6-foot-2, 210-pound sophomore Zachary Lackman and 6-3, 235-pound senior Christian Banasiak.
Lackman, who started as a freshman, put on 10 pounds of muscle this summer and added more speed. Banasiak had 71 tackles at Riverdale last season. His family moved to Cape Coral for his final season.
The two have worked out together since his entry into Island Coast in the spring with the veteran Banasiak giving Lackman tips to be a better backer.
“It’s been great training with Christian,” Lackman said. “He’s big, he’s tough. He’s been teaching me how to be stronger, how to be better and how to get off blocks. He’s been a great help to me this offseason.”
The defensive back position is where it gets interesting for the Gators with only two seniors out of the 14 players listed on the depth chart. There is a lot of competition for playing time in the secondary. Juniors Trey Boyd and Zelan Lambert should hold down the safety positions.
“It’s exciting to have this much competition in the secondary,” Bowen said. “Competition in practice is going to get those guys hungry and force them to practice harder every day.”