A week after cracking then-No. 6 Naples in overtime of another Coconut Bowl, Lely’s passion was about as deserted against Cypress Lake as a half-mile stretch of isolated sand in the Pacific last Friday.
Thanks to 178 yards and a touchdown on 31 totes by Darion Hall, the Trojans were able to shuffle past the Panthers, 20-10, to stay within striking distance of a Class 3A-District 12 title and/or one of two playoff slots.
At 4-1, Lely (5-3) leads the district by a half-game over Barron Collier, Naples and Lehigh as all three 3-1 teams try to make up ground this week while the Trojans take a break from 3A-12 play for tonight’s homecoming date against much-improved Palmetto Ridge (4-3).
After watching film, Lely interim coach Dave Miller, whose team has won three in a row and five of six and concludes its regular season at home against the Cougars, said last week wasn’t as bad as he feared. But he wants to see more focus and serious licks.
“Last week, the guys just weren’t up for it,” said Miller, who thought things were in order after warm-ups.
“After the first couple of series, it was obvious there was no excitement. ... Guys were just kind of going through the motions. We’re definitely going to try to change that this week. We’re going to try to be more physical.”
Miller figured homecoming would help charge the Trojans. Although you can count on Hall not getting 31 carries, and Miller plans to allow some of his players to rest a bit and heal up for next week’s mega-game, the Lely coach puts lots of stock in this.
“We’re gonna put a lot of emphasis on it,” Miller said. “We want the guys to worry about this game, worry about what we’re trying to do, and on top of that, win the county title. We’re going to try to take it as a playoff game because we want to go in on a high note against Barron, obviously.”
But this isn’t just about Lely. After winning just one game last year, Palmetto Ridge, under first-year coach Dan Newbrough, is no pushover. The Bears are 0-2 in Class 4A-District 12 play but have lopsided wins against Port Charlotte, Estero and Immokalee, and in senior Jimmy Perry (116 carries fro 783 yards with four TDs), one of the area’s best running backs.
“He’s a great running back, one of the better ones we’ve seen this year,” Miller said. “He definitely finishes the runs. They have a couple other running backs that are very good, too. Their offensive line is decent-sized, and they fire off the ball and get after you. They fly to the football defense-wise, and they like to hit people. Watching film, I couldn’t believe how physical they are and how hard their running backs finish the plays.
“We were talking as a coaching staff ... besides Naples, they’re probably the next-best team we’ve played this year. They’re very good, very well-coached, very physical. We’ll have to come ready to play from the opening kickoff and play for 48 minutes, unlike last week when we showed signs, but did not put a whole game together.”
Connect with Dana Caldwell at naplesnews.com/staff/Dana_Caldwell.