We continue our 30 stops in 30 days with Immokalee High School.
Last year, Immokalee lost to Tallahassee Godby, 21-20, in the Class 5A state title game. The Indians scored on the final play of the game, but they missed the extra point that would have sent the game into overtime.
This year will be a rebuilding year for Immokalee, but the coaches believe that the process will not take a long time. However, there's one thing in particular that they will need if they want to make a return trip to Orlando.
"Senior leadership is the key for the Indians in 2013," said first-year head coach Rich Dombroski, who led Estero to the playoffs for the time in 11 years last season.
One of those leaders will be running back D'Ernest Johnson, who has set a personal goal of 2,000 yards rushing and over 16 TDs.
The Class of 2014 prospect, rated by Rivals as the country's 203rd overall player, rushed for 1,111 yards and 14 TD's on 220 carries in 2012, including a season-high six catches for 126 yards in the state championship game.
"He's a great kid," Drombroski said. "He's a hard worker on the field. He's a leader and that's something that we need."
Johnson is one of six returning starters on offense, along with wide receiver J.C. Jackson, who had over 800 yards receiving.
On defense, the Indians return only four defensive starters. Joining Johnson (47 tackles) and Jackson (42 tackles) on the other side of the ball are outside linebacker Jimmy Bayes (52 tackles) and lineman Bernadino Salas (29 tackles).
Spring ball has been productive for the Indians under their new head coach. The players have had to learn a new system defensively, but the offense has "remained the same for the most part," according to Dombroski.
"I added a few wrinkles here and there," he said. "To me, spring ball is all about finding leaders and becoming fundamentally sound at every position. I believe we accomplished this."
Immokalee concluded its spring with a 14-7 win over Cape Coral and a 34-8 win over East Lee County. The teams played a six-quarter jamboree and each team played each other for two quarters.
"Expectations are still high amongst the players and coaches," said Dombroski. "We feel a trip back to Orlando in December is not out of the realm of possibilities."