Steve Pricer and his Lely football staff had a good idea where work is needed going into the game against Clearwater-Countryside on Thursday and before the 2009 season begins in August.
The 4A Trojans battled a 5A team that went two games into the regional playoffs in 2008. Countryside boasted a strong runner, but even more important was the giant lines on offense and defense.
On offense the behemoths, weighing in at more than 260 pounds each, opened holes for running back Alton Taylor and gave good pass protection for Jimbo Chmelik, who threw for two touchdowns and made key completions when it looked like Lely was going to stop drives.
The final score was Clearwater, 14 and Lely 9. About what the score should have been in a game fiercely contested.
Lely linebacker Mike Snyder was ferocious. Loaded with adrenalin, Snyder used in-your-face motivation for his teammates before the game even began. He also showed he was going to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
On the first offensive play, Snyder charged through to hammer Chmelik down on the Countryside 12-yard line, a 12-yard loss.
Expecting to be strong on defense, linebacker Ben Jean made another hard tackle, forcing Countryside to punt, giving Lely good field position with the ball on Countryside’s 40 yard line.
Running back Frankie Pugh charged forward for a first down. Then quarterback Sean O’Regan thew a high pass that only gangly Romanthi Mathurin could haul in at the eight-yard line and moon-walk into the end zone.
Unfortunately, the 34-yard scoring play made up a chunk of the passing yardage as O’Regan completed seven of 20 passes for 94 yards.
Pricer said O’Regan played well for the opportunities he had.
O’Regan has improved his speed in getting away from center, but does need work on throwing the ball away when he is pressed or no receiver is open. On two offensive possessions O’Regan took Lely out of possible scoring drives because he was sacked, losing key yards.
While O’Regan played the entire game, Pricer expects last year’s JV quarterback Patrick Lane to push O’Regan.
Lacking experience on the offensive line, Pricer said returnees Nick Thorstenson, tight end and Max Tyler played very well. Tyler was moved from guard to tackle just two days before the game when a starter was injured. Tyler was banged up in the second quarter, playing with sore ribs the rest of the game.
Fenola Dera was moved in as a starter at tackle and Pricer was pleased with his play.
Offensively, Pricer said the line missed assignments at times and did not respond well to blitzes.
A pleasant surprise was Dennis Bastin at fullback. He got the job just two days before the game and did very well. He also provided a block for a 30-yard punt return by Jhony Faustin.
Jean not only played strong defense, recovering a fumble, he also booted a 42-yard field goal that gave Lely its last lead at 9-7.
He also was affective punting. His ability to force the defense to cover a possible run, helped when he punted, not allowing Countryside little or no punt return yardage.
A poor snap from center botched an extra-point try by Lely’s other kicker, Adolfo Bedolla. Bedolla just missed a 42-yard field goal in the first half.
Running back Pugh had a solid game. He gives Lely a one-two punch with Darion Hall.
Hall is one of the best runners in the state, but he needs to mature on and off the field.
Missing practices cost him as he stood on the sideline for most of the first half.
The sad part was he didn’t take the disciplinary action seriously. He joked with players and talked about how he would do when he got to play in the second half.
Similar disciplinary action was taken in two games last season. On Thursday, college scouts were on the sideline, including a University of Miami scout. They got to see Hall break a run for 50 yards that kept them happy, but what might Lely have done if they had him for the entire game?
The 2009 season strongly sets on Hall’s shoulders.