Brian Conn is banking that success is contagious.
During the past three seasons, the Ida Baker High School football program won 21 games and reached the playoffs twice (in 2013 and 2014), the best stretch in the school’s 10-year history.
“For a lot of our seniors, their whole varsity career, they’ve been playing in the postseason,” said Conn, who is beginning his 11th season with the Bulldogs. “We’ve just got to make sure we stay on track with what our plan is and what the expectations are for our program and continue to do the things that got us there in the first place.”
That path may be a bit more difficult to navigate considering that Baker will have a new starting quarterback for the first time in three years. Senior Jordan Diggs will be called upon to replace Sage Attwood, who threw for 5,572 yards and 51 touchdowns and rushed for more than 2,000 yards and an additional 31 scores in his varsity career.
Conn said the team will stick with its up-tempo attack, despite the change under center.
“That’s the style of offense the kids and the coaches are comfortable with,” he said. “We don’t always have to go full speed but the no-huddle is definitely something we’ll stay in.”
Conn said Diggs is extremely athletic and a threat to run with the football.
“I think his speed is going to surprise people,” Conn said.
Diggs will be boosted by a deep and talented stable of running backs, led by seniors Brennan Williams, Izaiah Febles and former Cape Coral standout Jordan Lewis, who led the Seahawks in rushing yards and touchdowns last season.
Senior Rasheed Golden, who topped the Bulldogs in catches (52), receiving yards (789) and touchdown receptions (9) last season, and senior Drayton Diggs, Jordan’s brother, will lead the wide receivers.
Up front, senior Kaya Ayogmus will anchor the offensive line.
Conn said Baker’s defensive line, which will feature all new starters due to graduation losses, is the area that holds the key to the team’s postseason hopes. Seniors Neil Krivas and Daniel Olson and junior Andrew Ramos will lead that unit. The coaches moved Olson, who played outside linebacker and safety last season, to the line in order to take advantage of his quickness.
“He’s got a motor,” Conn said. “We’re looking for him to be able to chase a lot of stuff down.”
Golden will continue to play on both sides of the ball and will start in the secondary.
The Bulldogs’ kicking game, which has traditionally been a strong point, will be breaking in a new placekicker in senior David Montoya. Conn said that Montoya, a converted soccer player, improved greatly over the summer.
At first glance, it would appear Baker has the toughest road to the postseason in what appears to be the area’s toughest district – 6A-10 – which features five teams that made the playoffs last season and another (North Fort Myers) that narrowly missed the postseason.
“If you had to pick a favorite right now, it would probably be Charlotte,” Conn said. “But I really think anybody can get into the top two.
“I think no question, we’re going to be able to put up points in the majority of our games. What’s going to be important for us is defensively, we have to limit possessions.”
Head coach: Brian Conn (11th season)
2014 record: 5-6
Returning starters offense: 5
Returning starters defense: 6
Key losses: Sage Attwood (QB), Chandler Tew (DL), Zack Yankovich (LB)
Players to watch: Kaya Aydogmus (Sr., OL/DL), Jordan Diggs (Sr., QB), Drayton Diggs (Sr., WR/S), Rasheed Golden (Sr., WR/DB), Brennan Williams (Sr., RB)
Coach’s quote: “We might be a surprise to people on the outside, but I think our guys are really focused, and I feel like we have a good shot at making the playoffs for the third year in a row.”