When Lely went into battle against Naples on Friday night the Trojans knew they would be outmanned, but they dug in.
Naples went up and down the battle field, its Starver Stadium, but could not dent the Lely goal line.
The valiant Trojans held until they could make the final strike that led to a 12-6 overtime victory and the 36th annual Coconut Bowl trophy.
The heroes were many. Particularly on defense where outstanding efforts became the norm when the Trojans needed to stop Naples’ advances.
Senior Safety Jhony Fortin summoned up all he had, making a key interception, strong armed tackles and a kickoff return that nearly won the game.
Outside Linebacker Mike Snyder beat off defenders to slam down the fullback on Naples first play to set the tone for an ineffective Naples drive in overtime. He, too, almost won the game with a touchdown catch, but it was called back for a holding penalty.
It seemed the gods favored no side. Before the game both armies vowed discipline, but neither showed it. Penalties helped halt most drives.
On this night it was the heart of the Lely football team that made the difference.
“As the game went on you could see the guys really believed in themselves,” Lely coach Dave Miller said. “Our special teams played a big part, blocking two field goal tries and setting up Jhony Faustin’s big run.”
Following the tying field goal by Naples, Faustin took off on a 90-yard jaunt, bringing Lely to the Naples four-yard line. But Naples held in the trenches, forcing a field goal that was missed with just four minutes remaining in the game.
However, Naples returned that favor after going down field for what seemed a sure score. The Trojan line bent, but didn’t break and the regulation ended in a 6-6 tie when Naples missed a field goal.
In high school games each team gets the ball on the opponent’s 10-yard line, with four plays to gain some type of score: a touchdown or field goal. Naples charged first.
But Snyder attacked from the outside, pummeling the Naples runner for a four-yard loss. Then an inside Trojans push knocked Naples back two more yards. Facing third and 16, Naples tried a little trickery. The Naples quarterback handed off and then the ball was thrown back to him on the outside. Fortin was there to stop the play at the seven-yard line.
Naples had to settle for a field goal try that was not to be.
Makinton Doreant charged up the middle to block the field goal. It marked the second time the Trojans raised up to block a field goal, the first by Vinsin St. Jean.
On Lely’s first assault both teams were called for penalties, leaving the ball at the Naples 10. Then Quarterback Sean O’Regan went to the air, with high-flying Romanthi Mathurin outleaping the Naples defender for the winning, and only touchdown in the game.
The Trojans ran about the field celebrating. The Golden Eagles, rated sixth in the state before the game, seemed stunned. They had outflanked Lely in every offensive aspect, except the score.
It took a few minutes for a Naples official to bring out the Coconut Bowl trophy it had held since 2005. Lely Principal Ken Fairbanks held it as high as he could as he became immersed in a field of football players.
Fullback Dennis Bastin did not rule out higher powers in the win. His orange light-reflection tape on his cheeks read, John 3:16.
Jerrod Ackley, Lely offensive coordinator, praised the defense and special teams, saying “they put us in positive field position much of the game. The offensive line, which was down to a fourth-string center due to injuries a game ago, stepped up when we needed it. That’s a testament to Brian Johnessee, our offensive line coach who has worked very hard with them.”
On Saturday, the media had already moved on. Naples Coach Bill Kramer was talking about playing Barron Collier on Friday night, another Class 3A-District 12 game of importance. Should Naples lose it might just mean they are out of the playoffs for the first time since 2005, when Lely won that fateful Coconut Bowl game.