ENGLEWOOD — Trey Rutan had plenty of reasons to be nervous just two months ago.
The junior had never started a varsity game at quarterback before. He was playing behind an almost-new offensive line.
And if that weren’t enough, expectations had been raised coming off a historic season for Lemon Bay.
Five games in, it’s been like playing Madden on rookie mode for Rutan and the Mantas (5-0), who have outscored their opponents, 206-12.
“The quarterback position was a question mark because it’s a brand new guy,” Lemon Bay coach Don Southwell said. “Offensive line, we replaced all but one, so you don’t know. But they’ve all been a bright spot. We still run it about 60 percent of the time, but we also take the shots if they’re there because we have the players who can do it.
“Kids love to throw the ball, and I think that adds some excitement. It’s a reason to work hard.”
It’s been all fun and games so far for Rutan, who has a pair of dangerous receivers in Daylan Craft and Aaron Pasick, along with a three-headed rushing attack in Jason Hogan, Jacob Sekach and Landon Spanninger — players who have all scored touchdowns this year — running behind an offensive line with star returner Everett Baker and a pair of impressive sophomores in Owen Tannehill and Michael Ward.
“Jason is nice to have because he’s a hard runner and you know he’s gonna get the yards that we need,” Rutan said. “Then, we have Jake Sekach who is gonna make people miss and look dumb. Finally we have Landon Spanninger, who’s a big boy. He’s a tank who will run through people.”
It didn’t take long for the offensive explosion as Lemon Bay beat Saint Stephen’s Episcopal, 50-6, in the season opener. Since then, the team has put a running clock on each of its opponents as Rutan and his fellow first stringers have rested during the second half of most games.
It might not be so easy for the high-powered Mantas offense this week, however.
Lake Placid (3-4) is one of the better teams on the schedule this year and have a tough-to-stop rushing attack.
The Green Dragons have leaned on freshman Keveun Mason (75 carries for 582 yards and 9 TDs) along with dual-threat quarterback Lazabion Brown (11-of-25 passing for 143 yards, 1 TD and 41 carries for 175 yards, 2 TDs), but have few other players who have produced offensively.
“I thought I had some pretty big shoes to fill because Austin (Andrle) did a great job,” Rutan said of replacing last year’s starting quarterback. “I think I’ve done a pretty decent job with it so far. It took a good three games for me to feel comfortable. It was nerve-wracking at first, thinking how the games would go.
“I’ve gotten comfortable and used to the speed now, though. I love all the touchdowns we score. It’s been fun.”
Players to watch: Jason Hogan, Landon Spanninger, Trey Rutan, Aaron Pasick, Luke Tannehill, Jacob Sekach, Everett Baker, Gabe Dickerson, Caleb Whitmore, Daylan Craft, Chase Tudor, Dan Romanelli
Last meeting: 42-6 Lemon Bay win on Nov. 14, 2020
Predictions: 45-7 Lemon Bay (Vinnie Portell, 26-4), 35-7 Lemon Bay (Patrick Obley, 23-7), 48-6 Lemon Bay (Scott Zucker, 24-6)
Here’s what to expect from the other games in our area:
Charlotte (3-2) at Cape Coral (2-4), 7 p.m.
The Tarpons have a good chance to bounce back from a tough loss to Lehigh as they travel to play the Seahawks tonight.
Cape Coral has beaten East Lee County and Estero, but has also lost to Golden Gate, Bonita Springs, Ida Baker and Fort Myers.
There have been offensive struggles for the Seahawks along the way as sophomore quarterback Jack Janeway has completed 23-of-65 passes (35%) for 251 yards and just one touchdown to eight interceptions over six games while also rushing 70 times for 274 yards and five scores.
Aside from Janeway, fellow sophomore Justin Czerniak has powered the offense on the ground — rushing 124 times for 670 yards and five scores — along with junior D.J. Miranda (36 carries for 268 yards and two TDs). Outside of those three, however, no player has 100 yards or more than one score.
Matched up against an experienced and hungry Tarpons’ defense, it might not get any easier on Cape Coral this week.
Players to watch: Nelson Daniels, Connor Trim, Kris McNealy, Keon Jones, Logan James, Brayan Augustin, Cael Newton, Mickel Williams, Avant Harris, Nequis Graham, Tyler Amaral
Last meeting: 35-0 Charlotte win on Oct. 19
Predictions: 28-6 Charlotte (Portell), 31-12 Charlotte (Obley), 24-6 Charlotte (Zucker)
Gulf Coast (3-3) at Venice (6-0), 7:30 p.m.
This week, Venice will have a chance to earn another district win as the Gulf Coast Sharks (3-3) come to play the Indians.
If the Indians win they will be one game away — against Riverview at home on Oct. 29 — from playing for the district championship.
Winning against the Sharks, however, should not be taken for granted.
Gulf Coast has beaten Golden Gate, Lakewood Ranch and North Port while taking losses to Naples, Bishop Verot and Palmetto Ridge.
Their offense, led by quarterback Konner Barrett, has scored at least 28 points in five of their six games.
Barrett, a junior, has completed 92-of-154 passes for 1,318 yards with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions while rushing 62 times for 151 yards and six more scores.
“They have a really good quarterback and they’re coached well,” Venice coach John Peacock said of Gulf Coast. “He’s their best player for sure. He’s a really good player, and when you’re playing against a team with a good quarterback, anything can happen.”
The Sharks have struggled defensively in their three losses, allowing an average of 40 points per game in those matchups.
Though they’ve struggled to get to the opposing quarterback — with just three sacks through six games — the Sharks have forced several turnovers, with five interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries. Senior defensive back Jon Ramsey leads that group with four takeaways including two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
Even if Gulf Coast forces multiple turnovers, though, the Indians overcame several turnovers in their wins over Sarasota and Lakewood Ranch — two other district opponents — on the way to blowout victories.
Players to watch: Ryan Browne, Omari Hayes, Austin Bray, Jayshon Platt, Alvin Johnson III, Trenton Kintigh, Damon Wilson II, Myles Weston, Elliot Washington, Desavion Cassaway, Martin Ramos, Logan Ballard
Last meeting: N/A
Predictions: 56-7 Venice (Portell), 48-6 Venice (Obley), 42-10 Venice (Zucker)
Lehigh (4-1) at North Port (2-5), 7:30 p.m.
The Bobcats are coming off a pair of solid showings — losing by two scores to Gulf Coast and then beating Bayshore, 30-16, on Homecoming night.
This week, however, won’t be easy as they’ll match up with the Lightning and five-star running back Richard Young.
Young has already run for over 1,000 yards in just five games and was tough to stop in a 14-7 win over Charlotte last week.
A tough defense paired with Young rushing the ball could spell trouble for North Port, despite how much the Bobcats have been improving.
Players to watch: Jeremiah “Juju” Laguerre, Jaylon Fulton, Dylan Almeyda, Sean Silverberg
Last meeting: 35-6 Lehigh win on Sept. 27
Predictions: 32-13 Lehigh (Portell), 21-7 Lehigh (Obley), 32-6 Lehigh (Zucker)
DeSoto County (2-3) at Davenport (2-4), 7:30 p.m.
Fresh off a hard-to-swallow loss, the Bulldogs will have a chance to get back in the win column against Davenport — a team ranked No. 410 in FL.
Led by a multi-pronged rushing attack and a fumble-hungry defense, DeSoto County has been competitive in nearly all of its games.
A win tonight would get the team back to .500 and give it a shot at a winning season one year after going 0-10.
Players to watch: Nazir Gilchrist, Gershon Galloway, Andy Garibay, Lildreco Thompkins, Jay Pelham, Michael Russ, Blas Cervantes
Last meeting: N/A
Predictions: 27-14 DeSoto County (Portell), 27-14 DeSoto County (Obley), 14-0 DeSoto County (Zucker)