Lake Minneola loses 17 seniors from a team that went 5-5 a year ago.
MINNEOLA — Lake Minneola head coach Walter Banks has a simple prescription following his team's 2018 campaign.
"We've go to finish games," Banks said. "That's something that hurt us last season. I preach it every day. Our coaching staff preaches it every day. At practice you're going to hear it a hundred times a day."
The Hawks come off a 5-5 season with only two wins in district play. Banks believes several of those games should have ended in victory and he is determined that this year won't see the same results.
"We've got to do a better job with the mental aspect and not get complacent, just continue to get better with every play. Just keep that momentum going," Banks said.
The Hawks spent the summer hard at work. There were football camps at University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Mercer University in Macon, Georgia — opportunities for the players to bond with each other and determined athletes from across the Southeast. At home there was the weight room and physical training.
Fall practice found a group of players Banks says is energized and well motivated. Down 17 seniors, the Hawks will be calling on a host new of players itching for a little glory. Banks says these players, many of them rising seniors, are already highly skilled.
"We have kids that, if they didn't have seniors in front of them, they'd have been starting as juniors," Banks said. "They've been in the program two to three years already. They're looking at it as 'It's our turn now.'"
Banks says his team is filled with hard working kids who show discipline and leadership and will hold each other accountable during practice. With around 40 student-athletes showing up for varsity practice, that grit could make the difference.
The Hawks have a good starting group Banks says, but depth — especially on the lines — could be a problem. Some starters will line up on both sides of the ball, and some of the receiving corps expect to take snaps as defensive backs.
Lake Minneola will again start quarterback Devon Cole, who will look for more hook ups with receiver Trent Logan. Anchoring the offensive line will be Derrick Graham. All three are seniors who started last year.
Banks will maintain his schemes on both offense and defense, meaning his seniors will have spent a full four years under his system. He tells his players to ignore the score and stay focused on each play.
"If we continue to get better every play, the scoreboard is going to take care of itself," Banks said.
One big change for Lake Minneola this season comes in district play. Last season the Hawks were in the seven-team Class 7A-District 4 with Hagerty, Edgewater, Ocoee, East Ridge, Lake Howell and West Port.
This season Lake Minneola will play in Class 6A-District 5 with Lecanto, Pasco and Springstead.
If the Hawks can stay focused, Banks thinks there's a strong season ahead of them. His players, he says, are eager to win.
"They're hungry to play football," he said.
Devon Cole, quarterback; Trent Logan, wide receiver/defensive back; Derrick Graham, tackle
Sept. 13, at Vero Beach
The second of two lengthy road trips in a three-week span, Vero Beach was 11-1 in 2018.
Oct. 4, at East Ridge
The rivalry continues. Lake Minneola looks to prove last year’s 40-36 win was no fluke.
Oct. 25, Spring Hill Springstead
Springstead was 7-3 in 2018; this game could determine a district champion.