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North football kicks off fall practice

August 7, 2019
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

The North Fort Myers High School football team peaked at just the right time last season, taking that momentum all the way to the regional finals against Naples.

That defeat has become the motivation for those players still around. With many players having graduated, especially at the skill positions, it could mean the Red Knights will have to rely more on smashmouth football than finesse.

The 2019 Red Knights took to the field for their first practices this week, well aware that they will have a target on their backs as they play in a very tough District 6A-13 with Fort Myers and Dunbar.

Coach Dwayne Mack said "so far, so good" though there is still a lot of work to be done.

"The kids have been working hard and carrying things over from the spring. I'm very pleased," Mack said. "I expect to play good football, dominating on the line of scrimmage and running the football."

The team arrived at the field at dawn and worked hard for two hours, wearing only helmets as contact is not permitted the first few days.

Those who missed workouts during the summer were made to do an extra workout after practice. Remarkably, there were only a few who had to endure that, a testament to the dedication the team showed throughout the off-season.

Mack said he doesn't expect to change the way he calls a game, even with a large group of players gone from last year. Senior Blaise Sparks will man a very large and strong offensive line and expects the Red Knights to use the power running game.

Parker Odell, a senior transfer from Cape Coral, is expected to start at quarterback this year. He said while he wasn't on the team last year, he knows of the expectations and that the culture at North is a lot different.

"There are a lot of weights here and the team is a lot more physical. There is also a family atmosphere here. We're all brothers and there's a real bond with each other," Odell said.

Senior running back Christian Morgan came with Odell from Cape Coral and have been friends for years. He believes that comfort level will help.

"I came here because I want to win. North is a football school and everyone gets their work done. Coach Mack is straight up and tells you how it is," Morgan said. "The expectation here is to win."

Last year's loss to Naples in the regional final did not sit well with North. Mack said that loss provided the impetus for hard work this season, as Naples set the bar for everyone else to reach.

"Naples set the standard. They're one of two teams in this region to win a state championship. We strive to be more like them so the drills in the offseason made us realize we can get stronger, so we work in the weight room and it drove us in the offseason," Mack said.

Lee County is one of the toughest football counties in Florida, and with the competition the Red Knights have, regardless of the record. Mack knows he's going to have to bring it every night.

"I wouldn't expect anything less. We tell our kids to play every game like it's our last. The competition brings excellence and it's healthy. We're looking forward to it," Mack said. "You can't look ahead to other games, just the game you're about to play."

At a Glance

High school football is back in Lee County.

Players in North Fort Myers and around the area are strapping on the pads and lacing up their cleats for another season on the gridiron, as the first official practices took place this past week.

The Breeze Newspapers sat down with coaches and players in Lee County's West Zone to talk about the upcoming season, their goals, aspirations and what it's going to take to make a statement.

We asked each team the same five questions to ensure a level playing field and to gain insight on each program's mind set as we are mere weeks away from football every Friday night under the lights.

Below is the interview with North Fort Myers High School Head Coach Dwayne Mack. Interviews with other West Zone coaches may be found on .

North Fort Myers High School (2018 record: 9-4 lost to Naples in the third round of the state tournament)

Head Coach: Dwayne Mack

The Red Knights were one of the best teams in Lee County in 2018. Led by spark-plug Shomari Mason and Jesse Charles, North will look to continue their dominance in 6A without the aforementioned graduates, as well as wide receiver Clayton Savinsky -- the single-season receiving yards record holder at NFM.

Transfers Parker Odell (QB) and Terry Lindsey (RB) will look to fill the holes Mason and Charles left when they graduated this spring.

Mack, heading into his second season at the helm, will look to coach-up a roster that knows what it's like to have success, but is still hungry for more.

Players interviewed: Blaise Sparks (OL), Parker Odell (QB), Daniel Pilgrim (WR/DE), Vincent Husband (LB)

What are your goals for the season?

DM: "To be a family. Life-long relationships, life-long experiences, great academics and to win games, in that order, too. As coaches, we create life-long memories, life-long relationships with these guys, make sure that they're taken care of from an academic standpoint, the winning, the fourth thing, will automatically take care of itself. I just firmly believe that kids, willing to run through a wall for you, I mean, its simple."

BS: "I just want to make the playoffs and make a run at state."

VH: "Same here, I just want to make state and go far into the playoffs."

What is the biggest hurdle you feel your team needs to overcome heading into the regular season?

DM: "Well we had a lot of guys graduate, but we played a lot of 10th graders as well. I also think that game experience will help."

What is the coaching/team philosophy for you and your staff?

DM: "I'm very blessed to have five head coaches on the staff. If I have a question or need anything addressed, I'm able to lean on them. For the players, at the end of the day, football is going to end. As long as you have discipline and some kind of driving motivation, that will take you far in life. Academics are important. A lot of these guys want to go to college. Use football to get you to college and get you that degree, no matter what the level."

PO: "The coaching staff is just a family. I feel I can talk to them about anything, it's just a big ol' family."

Who or what group of players are you looking to for big contributions this season?

DM: "I rely on senior leadership. It's my job to get (something from) these seniors. But the thing is -- we make it a point in society that you need to be a senior to be a leader -- not necessarily. You can be a leader as a sophomore, a junior, if you produce. Leadership isn't about talking, it's about do-ing. I think Xs and Os, it is what it is, everyone has great Xs and Os on scheme, but, do the kids care for each other? Do they honestly care? Does your team get along? Do they care for the coaching staff and does the coaching staff care for them? That's what I think is important."

Why should teams not want to play North Fort Myers this season?

DM: "On a competitive note, everyone should want to play everyone. If you don't want to play a team, then you're not competitive. Every team should want to play us, every team should want to play Cape or Mariner, that's the beauty of the game."

DP: "We're ready to compete against anybody."

VH: "We're tough. We're disciplined. We're conditioned. We'll go out there and play as hard as we can all four quarters."



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