2012 PREPZONE FOOTBALL: WEEK 16 (INDIANS ROAD TO STATE)
- Video: Immokalee drops heartbreaker to Godby
- Video: Top 10 plays of 2012
- Video: Indians welcome 2004 state champs (Archived Video)
- Photos: Immokalee vs. Tallahassee-Godby
- Your Photos: Immokalee Fan Photos
- Your Photos: Immokalee Band Photos
- Photos: Immokalee Football 5A State Practice
- Photos: Immokalee Football Championship Pep Rally
- Prep football: Immokalee loses heartbreaker, 21-20, in 5A title game
- Prep football: Indians QB Tshumbi Johnson has rollercoaster of game in loss
- Prep football: 5A title game filled with Division-I recruits
- Prep football: Immokalee's road to the state championship
- Chat archive: Cougars defeat Indians, 21-20
- Prep football: A breakdown of Godby Cougars
- Prep football: 2004 state champs inspired Immokalee's current title run
- Prep football: Indians try to avoid distractions on eve of state championship
- Prep football: Coach Kepple breaks down Immokalee O-line
- Prep football: Indians inspired by Coach Kepple, who fights rare disorder
- Prep football: Immokalee RB Marcellus out for title game, will undergo surgery after season
- Prep football: State title would fulfil childhood dream for Immokalee seniors
- Prep football: Defense 'the glue' that binds Indians' title hopes together
- Prep football: D'Ernest Johnson shakes off fumble, runs Immokalee to state title game
- Special Section: Learn more about Immokalee's Road to the State Championship Game
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ORLANDO — As they wiped tears from their eyes, composed themselves and gathered their thoughts, Immokalee players all used the same word when describing Friday’s Class 5A state championship.
“Devastating,” junior running back D’Ernest Johnson said. “This is devastating. We worked so hard for this.”
Emotions poured from the players as they ambled around the field at the Citrus Bowl, heartbroken after a 21-20 loss to Tallahassee-Godby. The Indians were still in shock following a wild ending that took Immokalee from euphoria to despair.
“It’s something I’m going to have to give time to heal,” senior lineman Michael Campbell said. “I’ll remember it the rest of my life.”
Campbell took the loss the hardest, placing the blame squarely on his own shoulder pads.
After a touchdown pass with no time left on the clock, Immokalee needed the point-after kick to send the game to overtime. The snap from Campbell, the center, was low and rolled to holder Tshumbi Johnson, also the team’s quarterback.
With the defense closing in fast, Johnson lofted a desperation pass to the end zone that was intercepted by Godby’s Dallas Williams.
That quickly, the Indians’ chance at winning the school’s second title and Southwest Florida’s fourth was ripped away.
“It was my fault,” Campbell said. “It was a bad snap. It slipped. I didn’t get a good feel for the ball. I wasn’t calm. I was too caught up in the moment.”
A team captain, Campbell was inconsolable after the loss. He cried uncontrollably and was unable to walk to midfield for the postgame handshakes between the teams.
Immokalee principal Mary Murphy hugged Campbell following the game. Indians coach Jerrod Ackley threw his arms around his senior, and the two cried together.
“That play was spotlighted as the play that cost us the game, but there were several plays that cost us the game in the long run,” Ackley said. “We had interceptions and fumbles and a bunch of dumb penalties in the first half. We just didn’t play clean all night long.”
Immokalee’s sideline, and the six busloads of fans that make the trip to Orlando, erupted when Johnson found fellow senior Xavier Richardson for a 2-yard touchdown pass on the game’s final play. The Indians then turned to the leg of senior Jesus Velazco, who hit 49 extra points before the decisive attempt.
The Indians celebrated with extra fervor after Richardson’s catch. The touchdown put Immokalee on the verge of a comeback from its biggest deficit since a Week 2 loss at Naples. Godby led 21-7 after scoring with 5:54 to play.
“We’re thinking that we’re going to kick it into overtime,” senior linebacker Joslin Alberique said. “I know if we went to overtime we would have come out and stopped them. To see that bad snap on the (extra point), it was devastating.”
Richardson declined to be interviewed after the game.
The Godby players had their own emotional rollercoaster ride before winning the program’s fourth championship.
The Cougars batted away a pass to the end zone as time ran out, and players spilled onto the field in celebration. A defensive holding call gave Immokalee one untimed down, which Johnson used to throw his only touchdown pass of the game.
After having the life sucked out of their victory party, Godby players had to regain their focus to prepare for an expected overtime shootout.
“We thought it was going to overtime,” Cougars running back Khalid Thomas said. “When (Johnson) pulled back (to pass) on that PAT, I was just praying we would get a stop.”
While the Indians needed only something as simple as an extra point to force overtime, Ackley was never at ease. He could only think back to the Indians’ special team struggles throughout the year.
Immokalee has had trouble at time with long snaps. Against Naples — one of three regular season losses — the Indians had two snaps go over their punter’s head which resulted in touchdowns. In the second quarter Friday, ta low snap on a field goal attempt resulted in another hurried pass and interception.
Campbell did not start the season at center for the Indians. Starter Kerby Henry was the starter until he injured his arm in Week 4, forcing Campbell to slide over to center.
“Sheer exhilaration when we scored that touchdown,” Ackley said, “but I just kept thinking in my mind that we botched another one of those (snaps) earlier in the game.
“My heart dropped. It’s a crushing way to lose a game.”
Just as Ackley consoled his center after the game, his teammates also offered words of comfort.
“Mikey Campbell, he is the player that play-by-play, he does the best,” said Velazco, the kicker who had a direct vantage point on both failed special teams snaps. “Unfortunately, things didn’t go as expected.”
The championship game marks the end of the career for Immokalee’s heralded senior class. Many of the seniors started as sophomore before developing into one of the most talented teams Southwest Florida has ever seen. As many as 10 players from this year’s team could go on to play Division I college football.
With chemistry issues and off-field problems, Immokalee fell to 5-3 late in the year before turning their season around. The Indians won six straight games to get to the championship game for the third time.
Immokalee was trying to join Naples High as a two-time state champion. The Indians won their first title in 2004 and lost in the state finals in 2000. Naples won championships in 2001 and 2007. They are the only two Southwest Florida programs to win outright state titles.
Though the loss will sting for years to come, Ackley took pride in the way his team bounced back from a bad start. Immokalee trailed 13-0 at halftime before going down 21-7 with six minutes left.
Watching their championship expectations evaporate, the Indians got moving in the fourth quarter. Immokalee gained 148 yards in the final period while holding Godby to 51.
After the Indians scored on Johnson’s 1-yard run to pull within 21-14, the defense had to force the Cougars to punt on two possessions in the final five minutes. Immokalee got the ball on its own 18 with 1 minute, 8 seconds to play before driving 82 yards for its final touchdown.
“I’m proud of the way we battle adversity,” Ackley said. “We’ve battled back all season, and that’s what we did. We battled to the end.”
Class 5A championship
At the Citrus Bowl, Orlando
TALLAHASSEE-GODBY 21, IMMOKALEE 20
G 0 13 0 8 -- 21
I 0 0 7 13 -- 20
G – Longmire 1 run (Swigart-Johnson kick), 7:46
G – Bradwell 6 run (pass failed), 5:20
I – T. Johnson 7 run (Velazco kick), 3:28
G – Thomas 28 run (Phillip pass from Bradwell), 5:54
I – T. Johnson 1 run (Velazco kick), 4:36
I – Richardson pass from T. Johnson (pass failed), 0:00
First downs 16 24
Rushes-yards 44-160 43-133
Passing yards 162 301
Passing-int. 12-23-1 24-41-3
Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-1
Punts-avg. 8-35.4 5-39.6
Penalties 11-101 15-89
Rushing: G – Bradwell 17-67, Thomas 13-64, Longmire 6-10, Hayward 3-8, Young 3-8, Barnes 1-5; I – D. Johnson 17-63, T. Johnson 20-60, Mackensie Alexander 4-7, Jackson 2-3.
Passing: G – Bradwell 12-21-1-108, Longmire 2-2-0-54; I – T. Johnson 24-39-3-301, Celian 0-1-0-0
Receiving: G – Longmire 3-57, Hayward 3-35, Thomas 2-12, Calloway 2-12, Phillip 1-42, Conegia 1-4; I – Jackson 7-57, D. Johnson 6-126, 6-70, Richardson 6-70, Mackensie Alexander 3-28, Martinez 1-13, Victorin 1-7.