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Red Knights look to go to next level

August 17, 2016
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

In the two years since former NFL running back Earnest Graham took over the North Fort Myers High School football program, the Red Knights have shown incremental improvement on both sides of the ball.

They have turned the ball over less while cutting down on the careless penalties and mistakes that put them behind the eight-ball early last season before rallying for a 5-5 record.

North will compete in District 6A-10 with playoff teams Charlotte and Port Charlotte, along with Island Coast, Cape Coral and Ida Baker, meaning Graham's kids will have to bring it every night.

Article Photos

North Fort Myers High School tailback Zaquandre White runs for daylight during practice last week.


But with a more disciplined approach and Zaquandre White in the backfield the entire season, North hopes that will be a formula that will get them into the postseason for the first time in years despite a challenging district slate and the lack of a Kickoff Classic game after Dallas-based Triple A Academy, coached by North alum Deion Sanders, was forced to pull out.

"We have a few senior starters. We have Garrett Morgan at wide receiver. We have Luis Alfonso in the slot and White obviously," Graham said. "Other than that, we have all new starters."

Junior Ben Pogue will be starting quarterback, with freshman Nick Perez backing him up.

"Our defense is giving our offense great competition every practice and it's gotten us better every day," Pogue said. "People will key on Z because he's that great of a back. We're hoping they commit to the run and we can throw it over them."

Graham expects to spread the ball around with a mix of running and passing, which could make White even more potent, knowing teams won't be able to key on him.

"He makes a lot of plays in a lot of different ways, so we're going to use him. But we have some guys who can play pretty good football," Graham said. "We want to get everyone involved and give opponents a lot to prepare for."

Realistically, opponents will key on White, whose great runs have gone viral on YouTube. He expects to have a great, and full senior year.

"We just want to come out and have a good season this year. I've grown and gotten my attitude together, come out here with my team focused," White said.

The question could be on the offensive line, which will be very young. Outside of senior Collin Tumbarello and junior Colton McMullen, North will be very young. Twin sophomores Adolphus and Isiah Taylor will man the line as well.

"I need to be great on the line. Chris Sneddon is a great coach and he's helped me as long as I've been with him. I see myself doing great things," Adolphus said.

Defensively, North will mix in the 3-4 with the 4-3. Graham said he wants to see his team make plays and create turnovers to score some easy points.

Sophomore Chris Young is an up-and-comer on the line, while juniors Michael Chase and Fa'najae Gotay can play outside linebacker and come in off the edge. Sophomore Hunter Kobylanski and Junior Cameron Taylor will also man the front seven.

White will see action at safety, where Graham said he has improved tremendously. Herbert Riggins III and Joe Wilkins Jr. will also man the secondary.

Ethan Bennett and Dalton Stephenson will kick, while White and Alfonso will return kickoffs.



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