Lely looking for first win after hard-fought loss at Clewiston

From left, Lely football players Matt Desir, Jayden Noel, Henderson Francois and Jonis Dieudonne head out to midfield for the coin toss prior to a game against Clewiston on Friday, Sept. 14.

With his football team off to an 0-3 start following Friday night’s 14-9 loss at Clewiston, coach Fritz Jacques addressed the squad immediately afterward to offer words of encouragement.

“I know this one hurts, and I want you to remember what it feels like so we don’t feel like this again,” Jacques told his team.

He also told his squad that he believed they were close to righting the ship, and there were certainly positive developments to build on heading into Friday night's game at Sebring.

“We’ve just got to clean up little things,” Jacques said. “They say pressure busts pipes, and sometimes the pressure busts our pipes. We’ve got to get that right and understand we’ll be in pressure situations and play some very competitive teams. We’ve got some rivalries coming up, so we need to refocus and get ready.”

The defense played lights-out in the first half, keeping the Tigers off the board and forcing three turnovers – including a first-quarter fumble recovery by Jayden Noel and a second-quarter interception by Kesly Dolce.

“They came out early on defense and did some things to confuse us,” Clewiston coach Brad Garrett said. “I think our defense did a great job of holding on. They got us out of a lot of binds and did a great job of keeping them to three points at the half. We got in at halftime and made some adjustments and I thought our guys really did a good job of moving the football.”

The Tigers were without star wide receiver and University of Florida commit Ja’Markis Weston, out with an injury. Also out was senior playmaker J’Quonne Banks, so the Tigers needed to rely on some younger faces to move the football. Sophomore Keontey Fowler was one of those faces, ripping off a 37-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to give the Tigers their first lead at 7-3. Fullback Jaivus Chavers added a five-yard touchdown run to push the lead to 14-3 early in the fourth.

“They knew we liked to throw to the outside and they took that away from us in the first half,” Garrett said. “We put some bunch sets in this week to see if we could get the edge. We thought they’d line up a certain way to it, and they ended up lining up the same way so we were able to stay in the formation the whole second half. Jaivus Chavers ran the ball like a man tonight, he really got after it. And all we did was play ball control. When they needed to, they grinded it out.”

Lely’s offense looked good at times, particularly between the 20s. Quarterback Jonis Dieudonne showed he could move the chains throwing the ball – when he had the time to do so – engineering a few nice drives in the first half using a series of short to intermediate passes.

And although the field goal and extra-point team struggled (John Liberal went 1 for 3 in field goals and missed an extra point), other areas of the special teams unit delivered big-time performances. Henderson Francois ran a kickoff back for a 93-yard touchdown, and Whitley Theork nearly did the same on a punt return. His 60-yard return to the Clewiston 10 put the Trojans in prime scoring position in the second quarter, but instead they missed a field goal. All told, Lely had four trips inside the red zone but produced just three points, which ended up costing them the game.

“We definitely saw a lot of positive tonight, we just need to execute in clutch moments,” Jacques said. “And when kids don’t execute in clutch moments, that falls on the coach. And like I’ve said before, I’m going to get it right. These kids are giving me everything they’ve got and we’re going to change this thing. We’ve just got to trust the process.”