Lely underdogs to Naples in Coconut Bowl rivalry
On paper the Lely Trojans are the definite underdogs in its battle with Naples in the 39th annual Coconut Bowl, at Lely tonight.
Game time is 7:30 p.m.
Naples leads in the annual rivalry, 23-15.
However, in 2005 and 2009 the Golden Eagles also were heavy favorites only to be upset by the Trojans.
Naples, 7-0, is Class 6A-District 12 champs and ranked No. 2 in the state in 6A. Coach Bill Kramer thinks his team is on track to possibly win a state championship.
Lely, 3-6, did not make the playoffs, but is coming off a breakout win over Palmetto Ridge. Coach Stacey Stewart would have his biggest win of his short, one-season career with the Trojans.
Stewart is no stranger to the game, nor to winning the coveted Coconut Bowl. However he also knows what it feels like to lose.
As Lely's quarterback in 1985 his Trojans won 21-14. The next year Naples scored late in the game to win 17-16.
"In my day this was the game that bound the whole student body," he said. "I have fond memories of a great cross-town rivalry and the community behind us."
He recalls that the week before, although they were friends with Naples players, no one spoke to each other. It was the biggest game, except for the playoffs."
"We made a point not to talk with them," he said. "After the game, a couple weeks later, we'd be friends again."
Before the game former coach, the late Merv Ward, will be recognized and Joe Klimas legendary area sportscaster who died of cancer on Aug. 13, will have the Coconut Bowl Trophy named after him. He had broadcast every Coconut Bowl since its inception in 1974.
A year ago Lely came limping into the game having only won once. The teams played evenly in the first quarter, but Naples broke out with a 28-point second quarter and went on to win, 38-0.
Lely has won three games this season, the total for the two previous seasons before Stewart came back to Lely. He said his players have worked very hard and is sorry that they have just three wins to show for their efforts.
Stewart knows he has a difficult road to victory, but insists that his team can decide the outcome.
"I truly believe that Lely has to worry about Lely," he said. "We need to play our best and take care of how we play, we can't beat ourselves."