IMMOKALEE — Immokalee High boys soccer coach Frantz Matheus stands tall and still in the middle of the Indians' soccer pitch. He watches his players, along with assistant coaches Manny Touron and Saintano Damas, flit around the grass, their feet juggling the ball back and forth.
There is a slight smile on Matheus' face. As he watches his team practice, he is happy.
One look at the action in front of him, and it is easy to see why.
The undefeated Indians have plowed through everyone they have faced. They are undefeated, 13-0 and the class of Southwest Florida. They enjoy that notion, but their goals are much higher. They want a state title and they feel this is the best chance they have ever had to get it.
Matheus may be smiling, but opponents don't. How do you stop a team strong in every aspect?
The Indians aren't just scorching the nets. They're shutting down their own. Immokalee has allowed just four goals this season. In the team's first nine games, only one team, longtime rival Bishop Verot, could penetrate the Indians' defense.
Touron, also Immokalee High's principal, said the strength of that defense comes from the towering presence in the middle, sweeper Moise Saintil.
"When you have a guy like Moise Saintil," Touron said, "a guy of his ability and his calmness — because that's what it is, he's calm — and then you have three other defenders that are skillful players, that gives them a lot of confidence.
"(Saintil) sets up the stage," he added, "and they all listen to him."
Saintil gained his fame with one kick, and not one with a soccer ball. His 43-yard field goal in the waning minutes gave the Immokalee football team a win and the 2004 Class 2A state football title. Many who know Saintil's name know it from that play. Soccer fans and soccer players know better.
He is a multi-tasking wizard. He can score.
He can even defend the goal. In that game against Verot, Matheus called upon Saintil to play keeper as the game came down to penalty kicks. Saintil stopped three to give Immokalee the win.
But Saintil is but one piece of this dominating Immokalee puzzle. Senior Clotaire Joseph is a scoring savant, finding the back of the net in myriad ways. His open looks at the net often come from passes by Blandel Jean and Carlos Barazza — whom Touron thinks is the first Argentina-born player in Touron's coaching tenure.
The speed and skill of players like Hilario Vargas, Sinel Ulysse, Fredo Selbonne and others have made this team tough to stop. The nucleus of this group, players like Joseph and Jean, has been here for years. Newcomers like Barazza have made it even better. And the synergy between the players is something Matheus has not seen before.
"The relationship they have among themselves makes it a big plus for them," Matheus said. "When someone comes off the bench, it doesn't make much of a difference. We're still strong."
Veterans like Jean understand the type of team they have this year, and how fortunate they are to be clicking in the way they have been.
"This is a good team," Jean said. "We work well together. We're always working together."
That teamwork could take the Indians a long way. In the past, when they played in Class 3A, they were sandwiched in a region stacked with private school teams. Now the Indians are in 4A. Almost all of the private and parochial hurdles have been eliminated and the team's confidence is high.
How high? Jean points to the team's T-shirts and the slogan printed on the back: "We Waited Long Enough."
The Indians want a state title. They feel it is in the realm of possibility. That's one way to widen the smile on Matheus' face.