FORT MYERS - It's the end of the first week of spring practice as Sammy Sirianni leads his Green Wave football team onto the field on one of the warmest days of the new year.
As rising sophomores, juniors and seniors put the finishing touches on the first week, hoping to grab a position that was left vacant by the graduation of the Class of 2005, Sirianni and his coaching staff are hard at work trying to bring this Fort Myers team up to the level that this school has been used to.
At Fort Myers High, losing seasons are far and few between. Fans have gotten so used to the playoffs, if the Green Wave doesn't qualify one season, it is totally unacceptable. But times are changing in this Southwest Florida community. New schools are opening and districts are changing.
While Fort Myers is still one of the top teams in Lee County, things are slowly shifting. Stars who once called this powerhouse school home, have started to surface at schools such as Riverdale, Dunbar, Cape Coral, Mariner and even North Fort Myers, which has been known to put out a legend or two over the years.
But as Charles Fishbein and I found out, saying that this program is down and out wouldn't be totally true. In fact, as we spent time overlooking the fieldhouse that is named after Sammy's father, Sam Sirianni Sr., who was one of the state's great coaches and tremendous men, Charles and I saw some impressive football talent among the first and second year players.
Our trip to Fort Myers High came with some valuable finds in this Class of 2006 as well as a peak into the 2007 group of players. Heck, we were even introduced to an emerging star for 2008.
"We have some surprises," said Sirianni. "Players who figure to step up and make an impact for this program. There are also some young men who we really counting on."
Among the players who figure to keep the Green Wave in the spotlight include Josh Long, a 6-4, 240-pounder who nobody has a clue about. While we have never watched him play football, this is someone who could emerge, by the end of the year, as one of the top defensive ends in the state.
Long is someone who has not played this game too long. He is lean, strong and has a look that reminded me of Erasmus James when he was in high school at Hollywood McArthur. This is someone who will get plenty of looks because he is already a qualifier with a 2.9 grade point average.
Sherman Powell (6-2, 245) is another player who Sirianni believes will be someone very special this coming season. He plays guard and center on offense and could be a tackle on the defensive side of the ball.
The only thing that may keep Powell at the D-1AA level is his size, but he certainly has D1A football instincts and ability.
Sergio Rivera is a 5-10, 175-pounder who will start out at wingback, but could be used in the secondary and maybe linebacker. Another potential 1AA performer who has grades (3.8) and a test score (900).
One of the other players who has completely flown under the radar screen is linebacker Ryan Beasley. This young man is 6-1, 220-pounds, flies to the ball, hits like a truck and has tremendous football skills.
There are a few other rising seniors that caught our eye as well. Charles McDonald is a tight end with great size (6-4, 217) and good speed (4.7). He blocks well and will be called on to catch the ball more this coming season. He has a 3.2 grade point average in the classroom.
Safety Jeff Banks also played receiver a year ago. He could emerge as one of the top players on this team, and at 6-2, 210, he more than looks the part!
"Jeff is a potential big time prospect," Sirianni said. "But he has a few things to work on before that happens."
Three other players caught our eye when watching them run and go through warm-ups. Receiver/defensive back Travis Bonyfield, quarterback/safety Tyce Havens and lineman Mike Rubinsky.
Bonyfield is a muscular, quick athlete who is just 5-7 and 165-pounds, but this young man can play the game and could end up helping some D1AA or D2 school. He has a 2.8 grade point average.
Havens (5-10, 185) is a great looking prospect who can help a 1AA school with his athletic ability and is a tremendous student (3.3) in the classroom. He throws the ball very well, and may be able to stay at that position at the next level.
Rubinsky (6-2, 220) is a center, and if any Ivy League program is searching for the ultimate leader who has a 4.0 grade point average in the classroom and can play some football, you need to look NO further.
"Our senior class has some outstanding leadership qualities," said Sirianni. "While we do have a number of tremendous underclass athletes, it's the senior class where we will win and lose games!"
Speaking about underclassmen, FloridaKids.us always brings you the first list of the top talent for future classes. Okay, get out your pen and paper and write this top 20 prospect in BOLD ink. Linebacker T.J. Bright is a 5-11, 195-pounder who has strength, quickness and domination all over him.
Last year, Bright had 6.5 sacks from his safety position. Now that he moves closer to the action, his 4.5 speed and football instincts will put him in the headlines – often! He also maintains a 2.9 grade point average in the classroom.
"Mark that name down," Sirianni said. "He has the potential to be one of the best we've had here. This is someone who more than looks the part. He is the part!"
Joining Bright is Jordan Knight, a gifted 6-1, 280-pounder who plays on either side of the line. When he's on defense, it's "Bright-Knight", which it will be for Fort Myers' opponents!
As we were leaving Fort Myers, Charles and I were given one more name by the Green Wave to look at, and this is one that you just may want to get a magic marker and write it down. Remember the name C.J. ODOM! He is one of the nation's elite players for 2008, and he can play anything from receiver to running back to defensive back.
Want www.floridakids.us to profile your school in the spring and summer? Just let us know by e-mail FloridaKids1@hotmail.com or CFishbein@aol.com. Immokalee, Blountstown, Miami Central, Naples Lely, Tallahassee Godby and Fort Myers knows what it's like to have their program exposed for all to see!
FORT MYERS: The Tradition Continues
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