If attitude and enthusiasm parlayed into victories, Mariner High will have a great shot at its first winning season since 2007.
“It’s been really good, really good,” Mariner coach Travis Smith said. “The kids have been enthusiastic. We’ve had the best practices since I’ve been working here. The kids are all excited about the new season. They’ve been up the entire time. It’s been contagious.”
Smith is going into his third season as head coach and he believes a good foundation has been set. It’s his sixth year with the program. He coached the offensive line before being promoted.
With six returning starters on offense and five on defense, the Tritons have talent to back their excitement. However, there are depth issues as Smith plans on having as many as eight or nine players going both ways, although he said they’ll get breaks.
Mariner also lost a lot of experience on offensive line, Smith’s speciality, while the defense has to improve.
Offense: Smith is real high on QB Cairo Jeunegens who has grown on and off the field. He believes sophomore tailback Jessie Charles will be on a lot of Friday night highlights as he complements FB Geovanni Garcia.
Offensive coordinator Nate Sund, formerly the Lehigh coach, also has an array of wideouts to work with. He has talented pass catchers with wide receivers Chance Reiter and tight end Chris Ramsey. “He’s got great hands and runs perfect routes,” Smith said.
Offensive tackle Alex Gonzalez (6-foot-4, 290 pounds) will get scholarship offers, Smith said. Offensive tackle Justyn Cordones “is gonna be a beast”, the coach said. However, he said the interior linemen will be young and inexperienced.
“We still run a wing T but will move in and out of formations,” Smith said.
Defense: Hunter Rees, the team’s defensive MVP last season, will be back at strong-side linebacker.
Cordones will be a defensive end as well as Nick Simon, who plans on having a bounce-back season.
The secondary is inexperienced but has been bolstered by Joey Lane coming out. He played soccer in the past and is considered a good leader.
Last season, Mariner gave up 37 or more points six times so defensive coordinator Keeth Jones is working to improve that.
Outlook: Don’t be surprised if Mariner gets involved in more shootouts like last season’s 57-48 win over Cape Coral.
Jeunegens has good weapons to work with. Given time, he could light up some defenses.
Facing Jeunegens in practice will hopefully help the secondary. “We’re still figuring out who they are just yet,” Smith said.
The coach said he’s not thinking playoffs.
“Just teaching kids what they need to know,” he said. “I definitely think we have a good foundation here.”
2015 record: 4-6
Aug. 26 — Estero, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 2 — Bishop Verot, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 9 — at LaBelle, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 16 — at Cypress Lake, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 23 — North Fort Myers, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 30 — Lely, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 7 — BYE
Oct. 14 — at Immokalee, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 — at East Lee County, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 28 — Dunbar, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 4 — at Cape Coral, 7 p.m.