On Friday night, it was a rather one-sided affair as Cape Coral (Fla.) Island Coast shut out rival North Fort Myers, Fla. 38-0. In the young program's only second varsity season, Island Coast looks like a veteran squad. The offense is led by a talented junior, though.
Running back Mario Pender sat out last season but did not look rusty at all in the first game of the year. The 6-foot, 185-pound junior carried the ball 11 times for 144 yards and three touchdowns, with the scores coming on runs of 31, 33 and 54 yards. A few schools have already taken notice and an SEC program extended an offer after the contest.
"I've been hearing from Florida State and Tennessee," Pender said. "I'm keeping in contact with them right now. Actually, I haven't talked to Tennessee yet. I call the Florida State coaches, though.
"My coach told me that Tennessee offered me. I really don't know yet, though. They were at my game on Friday and they told him afterward that they were offering me. I'm supposed to call them with him this week, probably either [Monday] or Tuesday."
Pender, who runs a 10.6 the 100 meters, feels that the Seminoles could be close to following suit.
"I went up there for a camp," he said of Florida State. "It went well. I got to talk to the coaches afterward. They liked me a lot and an offer could come this season if I do well. They want to see a little bit of game film and see what they see from that.
"They want to see me on film and want me to send it off to them after a few games. They seem to like me a lot."
If they do offer, they will sit in good shape.
"Florida State, they stand out to me right now," Pender said. "They've always been my school. I've always wanted to go there."
Pender and fellow junior teammate Mike Dumas, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound athlete who plays quarterback and defensive back for Island Coast, sometimes talk about playing together at the next level.
"Mike and I talk about recruiting every once in a while," Pender said. "We've talked about maybe going to Florida State together."
Though this is his first season for the Gators, Pender has varsity experience. He ran for 392 yards and three scores as a freshman, averaging 7.5 yards per carry.
"My freshman year I played at Cape (Coral High)," he said. "I played varsity there. I did pretty well but I was playing behind Spencer Boyd (who signed with Notre Dame). I learned a lot from watching him."