Spring Football Questions Palmetto Ridge, Gateway and Ida Baker Are Asking This Spring


Spring soccer games are upon us as programs in Southwest Florida near the end of the 20 days that the FHSAA allows teams to come to the field to improve before the fall.

Every team has questions and this is the time when the coaches try to find answers.

The News-Press and Naples Daily News polled area coaches about what they’re trying to learn about their teams this spring.

Here are three big questions three regional teams will try to answer together when Gateway and Palmetto Ridge play Thursday night in a three-team spring event at Ida Baker.

Monday summary: Bonita Springs stops Immokalee, Mother Nature gets the best of South Fort Myers

Thursday football: What we learned about the teams that played their spring games

Football in spring: Dunbar and the Gulf Coast are looking strong except for Barron Collier, Cape Coral


Check out Gateway Charter’s football highlights as they take on neighbors Gateway High

The Griffins welcomed the Eagles to the neighborhood by defeating them in their first game at their new stadium.

Fort Myers News Press


The Eagles are growing this spring. After some roster cuts, head coach Cullan O’Brien believes Gateway is on the way to establishing a culture in the program.

“They remove some of that negativity and just change the whole mood and landscape of the team,” said O’Brien, whose team won 1-9 last season.

With new opportunities opening up, O’Brien has seen some younger talent, namely his quarterbacks, rise. Junior defense attorney Luke Binkowski also appears as the leader.

Who starts in the middle?

At Gateway, a positional battle is being fought for the quarterback’s starting spot. Freshman Jamarion McElroy is the traditional gunslinger. He threw for 1,484 yards on a .544 completion percentage in the fall. Junior Jasiah’s Kahn is the run-heavy option. He ran for 149 yards last season, averaging 16.6 yards per game.

O’Brien says McElroy shouldn’t play quarterback. After a series of injuries and transfers, the former slot receiver told his coach he plays quarterback in the youth league. Shortly thereafter, the offensive transitioned from a run-heavy system to an airstrike.

Kahn’s off-season growth has put him close to McElroy in the race. A veteran track and field athlete, O’Brien delights in his explosiveness about his potential.

“They’re both good athletes, but they’re complete opposites of each other,” said O’Brien. “With Jasiahs we will have a more running pattern and with Jamarion we will have a more pass-heavy attacking game.”

After four touchdowns in the Eagles’ black-and-gold game, O’Brien says McElroy is beginning to edge Kahn for the QB1 spot. Still, O’Brien says his staff found a happy medium in the offensive packages, enabling both athletes to thrive. O’Brien says half the offense is built around McElroy and half around Kahn.

Expect plenty of reps from both quarterbacks regardless of who starts. McElroy and Kahn’s playstyles will be useful in different ways depending on the situation.

What to expect from the defense?

Binkowski has emerged as the most vocal leader, according to O’Brien. He says his hardest worker went from someone who has never played football to his best player. Binkowski has gained nearly 20 pounds this offseason.

“Our defensive line is going to be really good and he’s one of the reasons why,” O’Brien said. “We have two defenders that we just can’t block. They will be nightmares for other teams. ”

The other threat in the nose tackle slot is newcomer Zavion Holloway. Holloway missed time after suffering a concussion and contracting COVID-19. In seven games last season, he scored 30 tackles.

What does a successful season look like for the Adler?

After dropping nine games and shutting down polluting players last year, O’Brien is trying to put the program back into the hands of its players. “We had a couple of kids who were just about themselves,” he said. “I think a successful season for us would be to have kids looking after their teammates, which is what we’re seeing now.”

Of course, Gateway also wants to win. O’Brien believes his team can compete in his new district.

“That’s the lane we were on, and now we see it in everything our kids do,” O’Brien said. “Our weight room count is improving, our classroom attendance is improving and more kids are getting into football. Just to keep growing and improving would be a success.”


Check out the highlights of Ida Baker defeating Visiting Mariner in a high school football game

The Bulldogs won their season opener on Friday, August 27, 40-0 against the Tritons.

Dave Montrose, Special for The News-Press


The Bulldogs finished their 2021 season with a 5-6 record under third-year head coach Chuck Faucette and are using this spring to get their fledgling roster in shape.

“We’re very young … they still have a lot of growing up to do,” Faucette said. “It’s still a work in progress but I think we have enough talent. They’re young but we’re talented and we’ll be pretty good when they grow up and they learn what we’re doing and know what’s expected of them.”

“I’m looking forward to the spring game,” Faucette added. “It will be nice to see someone with some talent that we can compete against to get a little scale for the summer.”

Who will replace Kaleb Staple?

After 1,246 yards and 14 touchdowns, the Bulldogs will be without one of Southwest Florida’s premier running backs. According to Faucette, Michael-Rey Rivera wants to fill the hole Kaleb Staple left in the backfield.

“I think Michael-Rey will do the job like Caleb (Staple) did,” he said. “He (Staple) developed his junior but then that’s his last year when he took off and I hope that happens with Michael-Rey.”

Rivera is backed by an experienced offensive line that brings back three starters from last year in Frank Hernandez, Vincent Harding and Ryan Doxy.

“These are the veterans that have been coming and going for us for two or three years, so we’re pretty solid there,” Faucette said. “We just have to find the two replacements that come in. We have some young people who are of a certain size and can do some things.”


Watch Ida Baker vs. North Port Football homecoming and game highlights

The Bulldogs celebrated their homecoming with a weather-shortened win over North Port on Friday, September 24.

Dave Montrose, Special for The News-Press

Who will lead the Bulldogs defense?

The Bulldogs will no doubt be the heart and soul of their team as Zachary Malpica makes the move to the collegiate level. Malpica’s impact on Ida Baker’s defense was well documented as he led the team with 86 tackles. Returning for the Bulldogs is rising junior Layton Breckinridge, who at 53 was second on the team in tackles.

“Layton Breckenridge is going to be a guy who’s going to be an all-county guy that people are going to look at,” Faucette said. “He was our defensive end last year and really worked his tail off in the offseason. He’s a guy on defense who’s going to be the bell cow we need.

What to expect from Jordan Rizzo?

Faucette praised Jordan Rizzo as a sophomore, describing him as a Christian McCaffrey-type player who can do anything for Ida Baker’s team.

Rizzo led the team with 446 yards and three touchdowns. Whether from the backfield or as a receiver, Rizzo will be the go-to person for the Bulldogs.

“Rizzo is like that wildcat guy now that you know Zach (Malipica) is gone,” Faucette said. “He’s a little smaller than Zach, but he can fly and walk.”


It’s a new era for the Bears, who had an unbeaten regular season just two years ago before slipping to 5-5 and missing the playoffs last year.

Head coach Chris Tokounen is gone, and lead rusher Jaden Booker and his brother, quarterback Hosea Booker, could be as good as they are at spring training.

Toukonen finished with a 40-30 record, including the school’s first unbeaten season of 2020. That year, the Bears beat Napoli for the first time since they opened in 2005. He resigned in February.

He was replaced in 2018 and 2019 by Paul Giovine, a Gulf Coast assistant who also trained in the Rochester, New York area.

“I think as a new coach you obviously want to get to know the players as much as possible,” he said. “Not only on the field, but also off the field. Find out who are the kids who are going to be the workers, the kids with the strongest work ethic, things like that.”

What about the Booker brothers?

Giovine said the Bookers are planning a move to First Baptist Academy. You are not participating in spring training.

“You never know what’s going to happen until it happens,” Giovine said. “I have Hosea in class. I wish these kids the best in whatever they do. I won’t blame them. I would love it if they played for me.”

Jaden Booker has been a freshman and rushed for 1,726 yards and 11 touchdowns a year ago. Hosea Booker started at quarterback last year, throwing for 978 yards and rushing for 533 more. He threw 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Will everyone play the same positions?

Possibly, but Giovine likes to experiment or at least look at players in a different position than they normally play.

“I’m the type of coach who likes to find out who the best athletes are, both offensively and defensively,” he said. “I don’t really like putting children in a box. If there’s a kid that’s been playing linebacker all along and can play quarterback, I’ll try quarterback. There’s a bit of tinkering when I take on a team.

“In my past, I could find kids who did things offensively because no one knew or no one asked. But sometimes they are where they should be. It’s just a sense of how your team will be.”

What are the options for replacing skill position players?

If the Bookers go, that’s 3,286 yards down from the 3,494 yards the Bears gained offensively last season.

Demetri Zertopoulis spent some time at quarterback last year and is said to be the starter. Mackenley Kernizan is on the running back. Wyatt Vanston was able to see time at both cornerback and receiver.

“Offensively we run a spread system,” said Giovine. “We’re probably about 50/50. I think it’s important that you do one of them well, and then one of them will open up the other for you.”

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