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Football season kicks off with workouts
July 18, 2018

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If the North Fort Myers High School football team has thoughts of playing football past Thanksgiving, it will be the work they do now that will determine their fate.

Thanks to the culture instilled by their previous head coach, nearly all the players have been coming to school every day to train, work out and be ready when fall practice begins in less than two weeks.

That commitment has trickled down to the freshmen, who have also come in every day to learn the Red Knight way of playing the game.

New head football coach Dwayne Mack has pretty much kept the system installed by former coach Earnest Graham intact. He has also inherited enough players from last season's 9-1 team to continue a hard-working culture.

Four days a week nearly everybody comes to school at 8 a.m. to work out, lift weights, do light drills and sharpen fundamentals that may have dulled in the offseason.

On this day, Mack had his skill players doing seven-on-sevens against other schools. That left the linemen, led by offensive line coach Chris Snedden, to work on technique, alignments, get better at what they've been taught and try new things.

Duane Heller, senior offensive lineman, said teams don't win if they don't put in the off-season work.

"It's a year-round sport. We keep coming in to get better because if we stop in the summer, nothing will happen in the fall," Heller said. "You come here now to work and you get paid in the win column during the season."

Scott Ashby, defensive line coach, said football is a year-round thing, with this part of the year being learning time, especially for the younger kids.

"We're a young ball club this year. There are kids who have never played football," Scott said. "We have about 25 freshmen and I'm sure we'll get more once school starts."

While some might argue that brand-new freshmen players could learn the game better at the Pop Warner level, where they will be guaranteed playing time, Scott didn't agree.

"At this level, you get hands-on instruction. Nothing against Pop Warner, but you're in high school and should be learning what high school is all about," Scott said. "With the new kids we start with starts and stances, positions and there's a lot of teaching going on."

For those freshmen, the varsity coaches do a lot of teaching to them as well. It was a day they incorporated a new skill into their routine, yoga, which many had never done before.

Taylor Ashby, Scott's son, coaches the freshmen. He said it's great to have a brand-new group of kids every year to help build a foundation for the future.

"We have a lot of eager 14- and 15-year-olds coming in to start a new chapter for Red Knight football," Taylor said. "These kids have been after it in the gym and the weight room."

Taylor Ashby said his group was a 50-50 mix of newbies and experienced players. He said he treats all the players the same by starting with the fundamentals.

"We teach them terminology and how the football team operates. We teach then stances, then go to taking steps and putting in formations and plays. It's a day one atmosphere with everyone," Taylor said.

With a mix like this, it teaches some freshmen to become leaders. Dominic Castagna has played football since age 7 and is being counted on to be a mentor to the new players.

"It's been an experience. We're all coming together trying to mesh and throwing in the newer guys to get experience," Castagna said. "I'm leading the team in workouts and trying to be the best I can be, helping out wherever I can."

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