Battle for the Gate history
2004: Golden Gate 46-26 (first ever game for both schools)
2005: Golden Gate 21-19
2006: Palmetto Ridge 31-12
2007: Palmetto Ridge 38-10
2008: Palmetto Ridge 35-7
PALMETTO RIDGE (1-0) at GOLDEN GATE (0-1), 7:30 p.m.
Key players: Palmetto Ridge --QB Shad Thebaud, RB Jimmy Perry, RB Bobby Dehnz, DL Andrew Smikle, DL Luis Rodriguez. Golden Gate -- QB/WR Devin Woods, QB/WR Javon Burks, RB Shun Knowles, LB Will Garcia, DB Peterson Janvier.
What to watch for: If last week was an indication, both offenses should be active Friday night. Palmetto Ridge had more than 400 yards of offense in a victory over Port Charlotte, while Golden Gate went for more than 300 yards in a loss to Golden Gate. Thebaud, in the junior’s first start, threw for 179 yards. Titans quarterbacks Woods and Burks combined for 139 yards passing. Golden Gate head coach Steve Crowley said he expects to continue rotating quarterbacks, but Woods will start. In five games between the newest schools in Collier County, Palmetto Ridge has a 3-2 edge and has won three straight.
NAPLES — Tim Speakman knows better than anyone the intensity that surrounds the Battle for the Gate.
A year ago, Speakman was running Palmetto Ridge football practices, trying to get his team ready for the annual game against Golden Gate. He saw the motivation and desire in his Bears to beat their biggest rival.
After resigning from Palmetto Ridge following last season, Speakman is now the offensive coordinator at Golden Gate. Tonight, he’ll be coaching against many of the same Bears players he led to victory over the Titans the past three years.
“It’s going to be hard for me,” Speakman said. “I went through a lot of blood, sweat and tears with Palmetto Ridge kids that are there now. It’s going to be very hard. It’s tough for me because I have mixed emotions.”
In the end, though, Speakman hopes Golden Gate brings back The Gate, the segment of picket fencing that serves as a trophy for the annual match up between the two newest public schools in Collier County.
The Titans took home The Gate first, winning the inaugural game for both programs in 2004. Golden Gate retained the prize the next season, but Palmetto Ridge claimed it for the first time in 2006, Speakman’s second season with the Bears.
Speakman’s teams won three straight Battles, including last year when the Bears’ 35-7 triumph over their cross-town rival was their only victory of the season.
If Palmetto Ridge hopes to hoist The Gate for a fourth straight year, Speakman isn’t the only familiar face they’ll have to beat. Golden Gate assistants Domenic Jaboni and Ty Vigil also coached at Palmetto Ridge last season.
“I really can’t stress how difficult it’s going to be to see these kids I’ve grown with the past three years and to have to coach against them,” Speakman said.
It also will be an emotional night on the Palmetto Ridge sideline, where first-year coach Dan Newbrough faces his former boss. Newbrough was an assistant for Speakman before taking last season off from coaching.
Though there could be some friction between the two coaching staffs, Newbrough and Speakman say they remain friends and have nothing but respect for one another.
“It will be a little weird,” Newbrough said. “It will be more awkward for me than for the players. But that’s coaching. We’re both professionals, and we both wish each other well.”
Tonight’s game features two teams rebuilding after 1-9 seasons a year ago. Like the Bears, Golden Gate also has a new head coach. Steve Crowley filled in after Dave Tanner resigned in November.
Newbrough won his varsity head-coaching debut last week, and his Palmetto Ridge team impressed in a 38-20 victory over Port Charlotte. Crowley, however, lost his first game as a head coach as the Titans fell 35-21 to Gulf Coast.
“The kids are definitely pumped up for the Battle for the Gate,” Crowley said. “It’s a big rivalry, and we’re itching to get that first victory this year.”