One of Lee County’s youngest varsity football programs, Island Coast has also been one of its most successful.
In five full varsity seasons, the Gators have four state playoff appearances, including a 2010 state semifinal berth, three district championships and a .709 winning percentage, fourth-best in all of Southwest Florida behind Naples (.816), South Fort Myers (.787) and Cape Coral (.714).
Under new coach Wayne Blair, Island Coast doesn’t plan on keeping pace with its prodigious past, but instead outrunning it.
“We’re trying to do everything at a faster pace and as I say it, stepping on the gas,” said Blair, who took over the Gators’ program in April, replacing Joe Bowen. “We’re not trying to push on the brakes. I want them always in fifth gear.”
Island Coast’s offense, which for most of Bowen’s tenure was a run-heavy, bullish attack, is working toward morphing into a more multi-dimensional attack.
“The one thing people associate fast tempo with is a spread offense,” Blair said. “We’re really a combination of different offenses — we go West Coast, we go pistol and then we do a little bit of spread. But we also have smashmouth. I think it all depends on where we are on the field.
“I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel and I’m not trying to change the game of football. All I’m trying to do is keep them at a pace that everybody else is going to have to try to keep up with.”
That includes Blair’s own players, like senior offensive lineman Mason Boye.
“It’s a shocker to most of us but we’re all adapting to it,” said the 6-foot-1, 255-pound Boye. “I’m a big fat kids myself, but I had to pick it up and work hard. I’ve got a whole season ahead of me but I’ll be with it.”
Blair also instituted 5:30 a.m. practices during the spring and summer, displaying enough energy to rally any slow-starters.
“He’s here at 5 o’clock in the morning yelling and going crazy,” said senior running back Van Edwards. “He’s always energetic; we’re loving it.”
“It was a big difference; we were used to coming out here at 8 or 9 o’clock.” added junior linebacker Zachary Lackman, the team’s leading tackler in 2013. “But I liked it. You get stuff done fast and quick and you have the rest of the day for yourself.”
After reaching the state semifinals in 2010, Island Coast is winless in its last two playoff appearances, including last year’s 33-27 loss to Sarasota Booker that saw the Tornadoes score two touchdowns in the final minute.
“The last couple years I’ve been here we went down a little bit,” Boye said. “But I feel like this year we’re going to make it back. This is my last go around. It’s all out and everything.”
That’s the same attitude Blair and the Island Coast coaching staff is trying to instill in the team as a whole, one sunrise practice at a time.
Follow Dan DeLuca on Twitter @NewsPressDan