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Vote now: Who is the top returning defensive end in Southwest Florida for 2023?

Here are 14 players for your consideration
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Let’s take a closer look at some of the best-returning defensive ends in high school football for the 2023 season in Southwest Florida.

Our list includes some of the best in the region and players who proved to be invaluable to their teams last season in making key tackles and sacks at the end of the game, delivering big hits or helping lead the defense as the top tackler in the area.

Plenty of worthy names are on this list, so be sure to vote in our poll for who you think will be the top returning defensive ends for the upcoming season. Voting will close on August 31st, just in time for the start of the regular season. 

Editor’s note: Our corresponding poll is intended to be fun, and we do not set limits on how many times a fan can vote during the competition. This poll is specifically for fans to vote on the players that have been nominated and in no way discredits any other player that may not be mentioned in our poll.

Voting ends Aug. 31, 2023

Benjamin Hammond, Fort Myers: The 6-foot, 180-pound defensive end is coming off a solid junior season for the Green Wave. Hammond in 2022 had over 20 tackles and three sacks. 

Jaylon Christmas, Dunbar: Christmas was one of two defensive ends for the Tigers that had a strong 2022 campaign. The junior edge rusher had 68 tackles, nine for a loss and two sacks. 

Vanier Baptiste, Dunbar: Backbone for the Tigers was the defense and Baptiste is a stalwart on the edge. The end notched 99 tackles, 28 for loss and seven sacks. 

Ralph Hendry, Bishop Verot: Coming off a stellar 10-3 season, the Vikings defense was a good all around unit. Hendry is back after making 27 tackles and 1.5 sacks a year ago. 

Sophiste Jorvelus, Lehigh: The 6-foot-2, 190-edge rusher will be relied upon after playing sparingly in 2022. Last year, Jorvelus had eight tackles and three for a loss. 

Kelvin Jimenez, Mariner: Tritons’ defense brings back several returners, including Jimenez. The defensive end totaled 20 tackles and 10 for loss a year ago. 

Hunter Zirkle, DeSoto County: One of the top statistical returners across Southwest Florida is Zirkle. The edge rusher/linebacker had 98 tackles, 24 for loss and 15.5 sacks in 2022. 

Murillo Ferreira, Gateway Charter: Last season, Ferreira led the Griffins in sacks with three. Will be the team’s top returner on the defensive line. 

AJ Rivera, Evangelical Christian: Rivera led a stout Evangelical defensive line from a year ago with 21 tackles and four sacks. 

Luke Walker, Naples: The Golden Eagles’ front seven should be tough once again with Walker back in the fold. Walker racked up 69 tackles, 15 for loss and six sacks. 

David Betancourt, Immokalee: Betancourt returns as the Indians’ top edge rusher after nabbing 40 tackles and five for loss in 2022. 

Claude Bastien, Golden Gate: Bastien is coming off a good junior season with the Titans. A year ago, Bastien had 71 tackles, eight for loss and two sacks.

Mason Palkovic, Estero: In his junior season, Palkovic was the team’s top edge rusher. He notched 39 tackles and 10 for loss. 

Richard West, Cape Coral: West had a solid sophomore campaign for the Seahawks, nabbing 42 tackles, 13 for loss and four sacks. 

Andy Villamarzo can be reached at and follow him on Twitter @Andy_Villamarzo.