At a glance
Herald’s forecast: 5-3
Out-of-Door Academy didn’t quite make the smooth transition to the Sunshine State Athletic Conference that other area teams have during the past few years. Out-of-Door struggled against its two Manatee County private-school rivals and couldn’t sneak into the postseason. The response for the Thunder: The triple option, a completely different offensive look fitting its small-school limitations.
Deep at: Linebacker
Thin at: Offensive line
Head coach: Ken Sommers
Career: Third year, 5-14
Needs a big season from: Ryan Ives, Soph., DE/MLB
The first practices of Ryan Ives’ freshman year at Out-of-Door Academy were a wake-up call. He had been a standout on Out-of-Door’s middle school team through a combination of rare size for his age and the ideal physical instincts a coach hopes for out of a pass-rusher.
Even with a relatively small Thunder varsity team, though, Ives’ natural advantages vanished. He couldn’t float by on raw ability and expect to torment opposing quarterbacks.
“I never got low in middle school,” Ives said. “I always stood up high and I always got jacked by my teammates in practice.”
Fortunately for ODA, the freshman was quick to learn. He found early success as a defensive end and continued his impressive rookie campaign even when head coach Ken Sommers moved him to middle linebacker. He was a bright spot in a frustrating first season for Out-of-Door in the Sunshine State Athletic Conference, finishing with 51 tackles, 3 1/2 sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He was chosen as a second-team all-area defensive lineman by the Bradenton Herald and named second-team All-SSAC.
For the Thunder to climb back over .500, ODA will need its defense to complement a new triple-option offense, and Ives’ ability to blow up opposing drives single-handedly is Out-of-Door’s greatest weapon.
“He has a defensive mindset,” Sommers said. “He loves to hit. He loves to get after it.”
Ives will likely spend his entire season at defensive end this year as the Thunder move to a 3-3 stack to compensate for some of the size it lacks. At 6 feet, 4 inches and 250 pounds, Ives is something of an outlier for ODA and the heaviest player on the roster. And after spending part of last season as an interior linebacker, he feels more comfortable in his play against the run.
Ives rounded out his freshman year with a handful of camps, including an underclassman camp at Miami, and a pair of others at South Florida and Florida Atlantic, where he matched up against upperclassmen.
“It was a great opportunity,” Ives said. “It really opened my mind to the skill level around the state.”
546Rushing yards for running back Dakota Dickerson last season. He’ll be the primary running back but split carries as part of Out-of-Door Academy’s new triple option.
9Passing touchdowns for Out-of-Door Academy in 2016, an average of fewer than one per game.
51Tackles for pass rusher Ryan Ives as a freshman in 2016 despite primarily playing defensive end, good for second on the team.
Who’s in: Fort Myers Canterbury, Fort Myers Gateway Charter, Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic, Kennedy Catholic (Somers, N.Y.), St. Petersburg Catholic
Who’s out: Zephyrhills Christian Academy, St. Petersburg Keswick Christian, Auburndale Jordan Christian Prep, Spring Hill Bishop McLaughlin Catholic, Windermere Prep
Upgrade: As an independent, playoff points don’t matter for Out-of-Door Academy. The most intriguing addition is a team from New York, marking Out-of-Door’s first game against an out-of-state team.
Jarred Flahive, Soph., RB
A transfer from Lakewood Ranch, Flahive will slot in immediately as one of the running backs in Out-of-Door’s triple option, lining up in an offset position as a slot back.
Games start at 7 p.m. unless noted
at Gateway Charter*
Santa Fe Catholic
Bradenton Christian*, 7:30 p.m.
Kennedy Catholic (Somers, N.Y.)
St. Petersburg Catholic
*-Sunshine State Athletic Conference Coral Bay division game
Zephyrhills Christian Academy
Jordan Christian Prep
Bishop McLaughlin Catholic