IF YOU GO
Who: Evangelical Christian (Fort Myers) vs Estero
When: Thursday, May 17, 7 p.m.
Where: Estero High School
Notes: Last fall with nearly 20 seniors, ECS won its district and went 10-0 in the regular season before being knocked out in the first round of the 2A playoffs. Estero is coming off a 5-5 season, its best record in a decade. The Wildcats will have new faces at quarterback, wide receiver and throughout the defense. ECS won last year’s spring game, 54-36.
Photo by KEVIN JOHNSON // Buy this photo
ESTERO — Fasten your seat belts.
If Thursday night’s spring football game between Evangelical Christian and host Estero follows the same wacky, high-scoring path as its two predecessors, then fans will be in for a wild shootout a la the old USFL.
Two springs ago, the teams combined for 108 points. Last year, the total was a mere 90.
No doubt Estero, which is coming off a 5-5 season, will be eager to give its fans a preview of what to expect this fall.
Gone are last year’s Big Three – quarterback Ryan Sides and wide receivers Zach Culvahouse and Justin Milcetich – but the tank still has some high-octane in it.
Running back Eric McFadden is back after quietly generating a remarkable junior campaign in the shadow of the team’s other stars. He rushed for 1,102 yards and caught 40 passes for 454 yards.
“Last year was just a preview. He’s going to have an even better year this year,” said quarterback Christian Phillips.
As for Phillips, after playing behind Sides for two years, the soon-to-be-senior is anxious to take snaps in the No. 1 role.
“I’ve been waiting for this. I’m definitely ready,” Phillips said.
Head coach Rich Dombroski said Phillips is more than ready to lead the offense.
“He’s doing phenomenal,” Dombroski said. “He has such a command of this offense. He’s making every single call right. He’s adjusting to things. He’s doing what we need him to do. He’s been chomping at the bit for two years to run it, so this is his time to shine.”
Third-year starter Rodolfo Sasso (20 catches, 3 touchdowns in 2011) is the veteran of a young wide receiver corps that includes Jason Correll.
“Jason is one of those kids that is starting to grasp what we’re doing,” Dombroski said. “He has a lot of speed and he has great hands. He could be another Culvahouse; another three-year starter for me.”
Towering tight end Nick Nataro has moved from defense to offense. At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, he’ll give the Wildcats a large target.
“Nick is going to be good. He’s a good addition to the offense,” Phillips said.
The offensive line should be in good shape with the return of Brandon James, Josh Brickley, Ryan Staats and Eric Hobbs. They won’t be confused with former Estero line greats in regard to size, but Dombroski said there’s plenty of quality.
“We don’t have any Derek Morses or Randy Hands…but James is 6-foot-2, 260 pounds, Staats is 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, Brickley is 6-foot-1, 230 pounds. We’ve got a good base across the board,” he said. “It’s nice to have a returning offensive line. Last year they were all sophomores and juniors that struggled. I don’t expect them to struggle at all this year.”
NATARO ON THE RADAR
Dombroski said rising junior tight end Nick Nataro is “on the radar” of college teams.
“I’ve got a 6-foot-4 tight end that flies. Nick is a fast kid,” Dombroski said. “Miami and (the University of South Florida) are very interested right now. They know he’s only a 15-year-old sophomore. He brings a lot to the table.”
In addition to size, Dombroski said Nataro’s versatility will provide the offense with more options.
“We have a true tight end this year,” Dombroski said. “Nick has the speed to be an outside wide receiver. He’s got a big enough body to be put in the 3-point stance on the end of the line of scrimmage. He’s a good blocker. I’ve never had a true tight end. I’ve got one now. I’m giddy about it. He’s a great kid and he’s a hard worker.”
SEVEN ON SEVEN
Estero plans to play in two 7-on-7 tournaments in June. First will be a tournament at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Later in the month the squad will play in the Miami Dolphins 7-on-7 in Plantation.
“By throwing all summer long and going to all these different 7-on-7 tournaments, we’ll get better,” Dombroski said. “My kids know all the kids in the area. They know kids at Barron, at Gulf Coast, South, Cypress. We don’t know anybody on the East Coast. It’s a great learning experience, plus, from a coaching standpoint, it’s going to tell us where we stand.”