The North team at the fifth annual Naples North Rotary All-Star Football Classic looked to be at a disadvantage after nine Immokalee players were scratched from its roster.
But it ended up being a non-factor.
The boys from the North grinded their way to a 20-0 victory over the South team on Thursday night at Barron Collier High School despite making some late roster changes. The Immokalee players are currently preparing for today's state championship game in Orlando.
"It would have been nice to have Immokalee here," First Baptist Academy's Jonah Bueltel said, "but we hope they do well and win the state championship. It would be nice to bring it back to Collier County."
Bueltel, who started at quarterback, sparked the North squad to victory. He kept plays alive with his quick feet, breaking off several big runs for first downs, and also accounted for one of the game's three touchdowns. He earned the honor of Most Valuable Player for the North. Lely running back DeWarren Mobley received that honor for the South squad.
Nathan Leedy, who normally plays linebacker for Barron Collier, lined up at wide receiver for the North and caught the only two touchdown passes of the game. Bueltel threw an 18-yard strike to Leedy with 5:45 remaining in the first half.
First Baptist cornerback Luke Schofield's interception on the South team's ensuing drive helped set the North up for one more score before the end of the half.
Bueltel and his First Baptist teammate, running back Chris Dorrill, fooled the defense on a trick play. Dorrill took the handoff, ran to the right side of the field and threw a 48-yard pass to an open Leedy for another score with 17.5 seconds left.
"The O-line blocked well, and we did what we had to do," Leedy said of the trick play.
The North scored its final touchdown near the end of the third quarter. Bueltel made the most of a fumbled snap, hitting First Baptist tight end George Alexander De Los Reyes on a 17-yard completion to put the North on the South's 2-yard line.
Two plays later, Dorrill punched it in with a 1-yard run. First Baptist players were involved in all of the scoring but Bueltel enjoyed sharing the spotlight with other players from around Collier County.
"We had fun all week," he said. "It was kind of laid back, and we all got to have fun and bond as teammates."
For the players, it was the final game of their high school careers, and a positive experience.
"It's good to be out on my home field," Leedy said. "This is a special moment."