The Marco Island Academy (MIA) football team is “bigger, stronger and more experienced,” says third-year coach Greg Fowler.
“We look forward to competing at a higher level.”
The ingredients are there, but so is a tough schedule.
In its preseason tussle, the 2A Rays host 4A Gateway Charter of Fort Myers, at home for a 7 PM game on Friday, August 21, at Winterberry Park.
They open the regular season on Friday, August 28, traveling to Bullard, Texas for the 2015 Brook Hill Football Classic against Edgewood High School.
“We’re excited to play in Texas, against a quality team, but first we have to take care of business against Gateway Charter,” Fowler said.
Gateway Charter and MIA both went 4-6, with four wins being the best of the Rays first three seasons.
The Rays return nine starters on offense, including its entire Winged-T offense that can put points on the board. Leading the way will be quarterback Andrew Fowler, who led the area in passing in 2014.
The offensive backfield has speed and muscle. Patrick Michel and Cayden Couture will be in the backfield, while both can also be used on passing plays. Freshman Dagan Rash is expected to share carries.
The bull, Tyler Gresham, will be the Rays punishing fullback. He led the team in rushing in 2014. Couture added 12 yards a carry before being injured and missing the last four games.
The front line won’t be moved easily and all are returners. They are tackles, Bon Deese, 6’2, 265 lbs. and Marcus Seidman, 5’11, 210 lbs.; guards Kyle Ginther, 6’3, 285 lbs. and John Roche, 6’1, 220 lbs.; and center Andrew Delgado, 5’11, 220 lbs.
Tight end Tyler Wallace can run and catch, gaining more than 500 yards last season. All be seen on defense.
Vinnie Moller led the team in tackles at linebacker, surrounded by cornerbacks Wallace and Matt Grille. Gresham will also be an obstacle as a defensive back. Patrick Michel, Miles Carlisle, Austin Gross return as linebackers, with Brian Flynn back as an experienced safety.
Collin McMullen will handle kicking duties.
The Rays begin a rugged district schedule at home against Moore Haven on September 18, followed by St. John Neumann, First Baptist Academy, Southwest Florida Christian and Community School of Naples.
The Rays have yet to defeat the Naples Schools.
“We did play well in those games, having the lead at half time, except against First Baptist,” Fowler said. “If we stay healthy, good things can happen this fall.”