It started out looking like your routine interception return.
Lely’s Sam Baptiste picked off an errant LaBelle pass at his own 12, juked his way out of a tackle, then another.
He raced to midfield where he whisked past Gabriel Puente, who whiffed at a tackle. Baptiste appeared dead tired at the 25 where two Cowboys awaited. But he pulled off a spin move for the highlight reel, leaving the final line of defense grasping at air. He punctuated the electrifying 88-yard touchdown return with a dive into the end zone, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and the ire of his coach.
The crowd didn’t seem to mind the extra flair, as the return finished a dominating half of football in an eventual 55-21 Lely win in the Trojans’ first home game in nearly a month.
“That’s something you can’t practice, you just go on instinct,” Baptiste said. “My teammates did a great job blocking for me the entire play. I was pretty tired there at the end and I thought somebody was right behind me, that’s why I dove. I know I shouldn’t have done it, and I’ll be running some extra sprints for it.”
The win improved Lely’s overall mark to 4-3 and sets up a crucial district game with Palmetto Ridge next Friday for Lely’s homecoming. Lely holds a 1-0 mark in District 3A-14, and a win would put the Trojans in prime position to clinch one of the two open playoff spots.
“We viewed this as the first game of a four-game season,” Lely coach Chris Metzger said. “This was a nice first step.”
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- TEAM PAGE: Get more information about the Lely High School football team.
- BOX SCORE: See details about every score made at the football game.
Baptiste’s return was clearly the highlight of the night for Lely, but the Trojans had no shortage of stars against an overmatched LaBelle squad.
Quarterback Rolf Bathold, who has struggled with disciplinary issues at times this season, showed why he is so valuable to Lely’s success when he’s in the lineup. Bathold completed 7-of-8 passes for 198 yards and a touchdown, also running for a pair of scores.
“It’s critical (for Bathold to stay in the lineup,” Metzger said. “We ask a lot out of our kids. There are expectations with being a football player, you’re put under a microscope. But we’re proud of Rolf and his leadership.”
Ereck Plancher was his usual steady self, rushing for 90 yards on 14 carries with two touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversion runs.
“We challenged the offensive line this week and they came through for us,” Metzger said. “We’re proud of how everybody performed, offensively and defensively, but there are always ways to improve.”
Lely took the lead for good early in the second quarter when Bathold scored the second of his two rushing touchdowns with a one-yard quarterback sneak on fourth-and-goal. The Trojans went up 12-7 and never looked back.
“When you’re able to score on a fourth and goal situation like that, it just gives you a surge in confidence,” Metzger said. “Early on, (LaBelle) was playing well, it was going back and forth a bit. But once we punched that one in and got the lead, our guys took off from there.”
- - -
LaBelle: 7 - 0 - 7 - 7 — 21
Lely: 6 - 27 - 7 - 15 — 55
- - -
LB - Chad Lutkenhaus 2 pass from Caleb Jordan (Reynaldo Hernandez kick)
L - Rolf Bathold 5 run (kick failed)
L - Bathold 1 run (run failed)
L - Jimmy Jackson 58 pass from Bathold (Sam Baptiste run)
L - Ereck Plancher 1 run (Plancher run)
L - Baptiste 88 interception return (pass failed)
LB - Gabriel Puente 29 run (Hernandez kick)
L - Baptiste 36 run (run failed)
LB - Andrew Tovar 7 run (Hernandez kick)
L - Plancher 3 run (Plancher run)
L - Fortinel Faustin 1 run (Doug Nesmith kick)
- - -
Rushing — LaBelle: Puente 10-141; Tovar 13-82. Lely: Plancher 14-93; Faustin 6-95.
Passing — LaBelle: Jordan 9-12-1, 79. Naples: Bathold 7-8-0, 198.
Receiving — LaBelle: Lutkenhaus 7-63. Lely: Ducatel 3-84; Jackson 1-58; Vasquez 2-53.
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