By Eric Schmidt

The Tigers of Dunbar High School and The Island Coast Gators had the biggest impact in the Southwest Florida area on National Signing Day for High School Football.

The Dunbar Tigers had 6 players sign yesterday to attend Division II Rockford College in Illinois; add that to early enrollee Ta’Jarvis Fuller of The University of Illinois and Melvin German (a 2009 graduate) who signed with FAU and 2011 graduate Chris James of Tennessee State the Dunbar Tigers rack up a total 9 players who will be continuing their careers as college football players. The six players that are going to Rockford College are Mike Green, Angel Andres, Matt Stillman, Franklin Lightfoot, Ken Dawson, and Shaquon Young.  Dunbar Head Coach Phil Vogt emphasized on how their teams motto for the season “One heartbeat” really showed.  Although many of them had offers to attend different schools the teams motto really bonded them together.

Dunbar is also expecting to have 3 more players sign this year. That would make a total of 12 players to sign and play college football from The Dunbar Tigers in over the past two years. That’s quite an accomplishment for any high school in the nation.

While Dunbar may have the most number of players to sign, it’s the Gators of Island Coast that posted the most players to sign for an FBS school. Most people know FBS as the Division I schools.

Island Coast, in only 3 years of existence, is starting to become the mecca for Division I recruits. Last year, the Gators, had 2 players go to Division I schools. This year they have 4.  Mario Pender, a highly recruited running back, has already enrolled at Florida State. E.K. Binns, an extremely intelligent offensive lineman, will be taking his talents to the Naval Academy. Binns could be starting his freshmen year because both Island Coast and Navy run the triple option.  Jordan Diggs, one of Florida’s top safeties, will be playing for his father’s alma matter The Gamecocks of South Carolina. Michael Dumas, another safety, decided to choose the Jaguars of South Alabama. Although Dumas had other offers to play for higher profile colleges, he chose South Alabama because he really liked his chances of starting as a freshmen.

With Island Coast becoming a football factory for Division I players expect next year to be more of the same. Head Coach Joe Bowen has a wealth of young talent ready to step up and take their game to the next level.

Other area schools also got to see their share of players sign on National Letter of Intent day.

Nate Dortchof South Fort Myers High School, has signed with the University of Miami Hurricanes. The 5ft. 11 in. cornerback decided on following in the footsteps of former teammate Dallas Crawford.  After talking with Crawford, Dortch decided that the “U” was the right place for him. Hopefully, Dortch and Crawford can bring back the swagger the “U” so desperately needs. Another player, Tyrell Banks, has signed with Coastal Carolina.

Bishop Verot’s offensive lineman, Cody Cole, will be playing for Larry Coker. Cole, is headed to become a Roadrunner of The University of Texas-San Antonio. Head Coach, Phil Dorn of Bishop Verot,  also has said that linebacker Paul Cecere will be attending Florida Atlantic University. Cecere will be walking on in hopes of making the Owls roster  this year.

North Fort Myers defensive lineman, Steven Mercado, will be moving on to play football in Easton,PA for the Leopards of Lafayette College. An FCS program known for academics. Lafayette has also a proven track record on the football field. The Leopards have 7 winning seasons out of their last 10.

Lehigh and Cape Coral also added players to Division I schools. Malik Simmons, of Lehigh, signed with The Tar Heels of North Carolina. T.J. Jiles, of Cape Coral, also signed with the University of North Carolina. Both were influenced by former North Fort Myers High School standout and Tar Heel defensive back star Tre Boston.

The Naval Academy seemed to be the heaviest hitters in the area. Not only did they get Binns of Island Coast, but Mariner High School’s, Charles Bell and Evangelical Christians defensive end Cole Wright. Both Bell and Wright will be attending the Naval Academy after spending a year at the Naval Academy Prep School in Rhode Island. The Naval Academy has also recruited 4 other players from the area over the last 2 years making it a total of seven if they all can make it.

So, why the sudden surge in Navy coming to the Southwest  Florida area to recruit football players?  The answer lies within offensive line coach Chris Culton. Culton, who grew up and played football in Florida, knew that Navy never really recruited out of the Southwest Florida Area. “The perception was because of their grades.” Southwest Florida is the most under-recruited area in Florida.” ” The football there is just phenomenal.”, said Culton.

In the Southwest Florida Area, National Letter of Intent day saw a total of 35 high school  student-athletes  sign to go on and play football at the next level. Yes, our football down here is phenomenal. Our kids are smart. Thanks to Mr. Culton, Southwest Florida will no longer be an under-recruited area anymore.

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