Winless Lely remains upbeat heading into Coconut Bowl showdown with Naples

Lely High School

Lely comes into Friday night’s Coconut Bowl winless at 0-5, but that doesn’t really matter, according to coach Fritz Jacques.

“It’s the Coconut Bowl,” he said. “Throw the records out. Whether they’re undefeated and we’re winless or whatever the case may be, it’s the Coconut Bowl. The kids are excited and ready to play.”

The Trojans are coming off perhaps their best performance of the season, losing 21-17 to a talented Dunbar squad. In that game, the Trojans grabbed a 17-7 lead in the third quarter and drove inside the 10 in the game’s closing seconds with a chance to win it after the Tigers had come back to take the lead.

“These kids are competing every week, through all the adversity, they continue to fight, they continue to compete,” Jacques said. “We just need to find a way to finish. They’re putting in all the work, they’re just not getting paid on Friday nights (with victories).”

Lely senior Henderson Francois runs the ball against Golden Gate at Lely High School on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018.

Three of the Trojans’ five losses have been decided by a touchdown or less. In two of those games, Lely had the ball inside the opponent’s 10 in the game’s final minute with a chance to win but ultimate fell short.

“That’s on me,” Jacques said of the close losses. “The kids are doing what we ask them. In some cases, we’ve got kids playing better than they are athletically. I’m proud of them. These losses hurt, and they’re supposed to hurt. But I’ve told them not to put in on themselves – put it on me. We’re going to get this right.”

After a somewhat slow start to the season in which coach Bill Kramer admitted his team wasn’t playing the way it was capable of playing, the Golden Eagles have begun to kick things into gear. During the last three games – all victories – Naples has outscored Gulf Coast, Immokalee and Palmetto Ridge by a combined score of 141-17. Two of those wins were shutouts, and the 48-17 victory over Immokalee saw the Golden Eagles break open a close game with outstanding special teams play and a punishing offensive ground game in the second half.

“It’s going to be a battle,” he said. “We know they’ve got all sorts of Division I talent over there, but we’re going to come and compete – that’s our focus. To compete and bring everything we have.”