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Red Knights back on the football field

August 9, 2017
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

North Fort Myers High School football coach Earnest Graham knows how important it is to make the most of indoor practices. It is Southwest Florida, after all, and with the rain and lightning this time of year, outdoor practices are sometimes out of the question.

With Tropical Storm Emily bringing wind and rain by the buckets, the first practice of the fall season was held in the gym. Even though it takes certain elements away, it provides an opportunity as well.

"It helps us. You can't be a team in Florida and not know how to practice inside. We're going to take that as a competitive advantage and walk through what we need to do," Graham said.

In the main gym, the offense went over its passing game while the defense and offensive lines held meetings in a classroom and the weight room. There also was time to get everyone together for a little scrimmage and some conditioning.

It turned out to be time well spent, especially with the preseason classic set for Aug. 18 at Naples and the season opener a week later at home against Riverdale.

"It's Football 101. It's learning intensive. The guys are getting everything slowed down, and once they're on the field, they can fly around," Graham said. "There's no letdown just because we can't practice outside."

Even the players said there are benefits to indoor practices besides not losing 20 pounds in sweat.

"In the gym, we focus on the focal points of the offense and defense. We tighten things up to a science so it's second nature," said Cameron Howitt, senior receiver and defensive back. "It's great being out here and playing football."

"When we go inside we work on the little things to bring it all together," said sophomore safety Terry Lindsey. "We worked real hard over the summer in the weight room and we're ready."

The storm eventually passed and the team was able to take the field last Tuesday. By state law, the first five practices are held with helmets and no pads. The second week, the team was able to start hitting.

There was no concern about the kids losing time for conditioning, as they went through a successful summer workout in hopes of building off last season's 6-3 record, which was the first winning season for the Red Knights in a decade.

The next step is to make the postseason for the first time since 2006.

"It's going to be something special this year. We're going to be doing a lot of new things. We have a big chip on our shoulder, so we have to go out there and prove a point," said senior back Fa'Najae Gotay.



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