The East Bay Indians are looking for a rebound season under first-year Head Coach Mike Gottman.

The former Durant High School head coach was named head man at East Bay High School in January, returning to his former school where he was the defensive coordinator from 1995-2002. He had a great track record at Durant from 2003 until last year, where he went 107-83 and won four district titles. In his first season, the Cougars went to the state final four, and in 2012, they had a perfect 10-0 regular season.

The Apollo Beach native remembers his time as defensive coordinator with the Indians when other schools referred to East Bay as ‘Easy Bay’ and always wanted to schedule them as opponents for their homecoming game. Gottman relishes the opportunity to rebuild the football program that went 2-7 last year in longtime Head Coach Frank LaRosa’s final season.

There is a buzz in the Apollo Beach area and within the East Bay football program. Gottman has been busy this summer trying to make a first-class facility that his players will be proud of, as he helped renovate the field house, locker room and practice field. His players have seemingly bought in to his leadership quickly, going all out in practice and participation.

Gottman is working on base fundamentals with his players, as well as trying to get to know them and their strengths on and off the field and as people. He believes that his team has the tools and foundation to be good right away with the program’s rich football history. Gottman looks to build some depth in 2021. His motto is “Let’s go 1-0 every week,” taking it one game at a time. They are off to a great start, dominating crosstown rival Riverview 23-8 in the spring game in just one half. However, he feels that his team needs to improve on special teams.

The Indians will run a spread pass-heavy attack with dual-threat signal-caller Nate Carter. The junior took all the reps at QB last year, playing in nine games while completing 101 passing attempts for 1,213 yards and seven touchdowns through the air while carrying the ball 101 times for 506 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. Gottman expects a lot from Carter as a leader and playmaker this year, especially with the majority of the offensive line returning.

Gottman believes that his team’s strength will be at skill positions such as defensive back, receiver and running back. Key players from those groups include sophomore fullback Jaelin Sneed, junior receiver Vincent Ketchup, sophomore safety/running back Izaiah Ketchup, senior cornerback James Thompson, senior running back/cornerback Armone Bostick, senior running back/safety Anthony Williams and senior linebacker Deven Carney, who has a college offer from Ohio Wesleyan. The junior class will be the dominant class in the program.

The Indians will be put to the test this season with a tough district, having to face off against Bloomingdale, Manatee, Palmetto and Lennard. The rest of the schedule is favorable for East Bay. They can easily win five or six games, if not more, which would be a huge improvement. Gottman just wants his team to play up to their full potential.

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