High School football previews: A look at Marco, Lely and Golden Gate

Are you ready for the coming high school football season? Here are team previews for Marco Island, Lely and Golden Gate.

Marco Island

Head Coach: Lew Montgomery (second season)

Last Year: 0-7, missed playoffs

Season overview: The Manta Rays enter the season with just over 20 players on the roster and are underclassmen heavy, many of whom are playing competitive football for the first time. Montgomery is looking to disperse the load this year, and with a limited roster, will be platooning skill positions in and out. With a young and inexperienced group, the coaching staff is focused on teaching the principles of football. The mentality is there but getting used to the high physicality of the sport is a different battle and has been a major point of emphasis for Marco Island. Leading the young squad is senior quarterback Jack Berry, alongside senior running back Troy Morales. Morales spent much of last year sidelined by an ankle injury, but Montgomery says he is fully healed and already in midseason form. 

Season outlook: The Manta Rays' seven-game schedule looks to be a solid opportunity for young players to learn. Marco Island believes every game on their schedule is one they can compete in. 

Schedule: Aug. 26 vs. Canterbury; Sep. 2 at LaBelle; Sep. 16 at Oasis; Sep. 23 vs. SFCA; Oct. 7 vs. ECS; Oct. 14 vs. Boca Raton Christian; Oct. 28 at Keswick Christian

Friday (Aug. 26): Canterbury 49, Marco Island Academy 0

Leroy Roker had four touches of the football, scoring touchdowns on all four. Eli Cochran and Owen Hawley had TD runs, Kevin Gonzalez picked off a pass for a score, and Chase Alley was 7-for-7 on extra points.

Lely

Coach: JJ Everage (fourth season)

Last year: 4-6, missed playoffs

Overview: The Trojans’ offense struggled to generate points consistently last season, something Everage thinks will change this season, thanks to the most committed offensive line he’s had during his tenure. The starting group features Mikey Lastra at center, Andrew Martinez and Roud Valcin as the guards and tackles Stephane Napoleon and 6-foot-4, 295-pound sophomore Woody Celucien. The unit’s improved play should make the ground game led by senior Guerschom Guerrier, who rushed for 1,100-plus yards and 10 touchdowns last season, even more formidable. Junior Colin Raymond will start at quarterback, replacing Brian Bachmann, who transferred to district rival Golden Gate. The defense will be anchored by a strong linebacking corps, led by senior Jaime Cisneros in the middle, flanked by senior Wesley Chery and Guerrier, who has impressed the coaches in his first season playing the position. Junior defensive back Joshua Philogene, a three-year starter in the secondary, will be counted on to lead an untested group.

Season outlook: The Trojans open the season with five non-district games then play four consecutive district contests, starting Sept. 30 when they host Bonita Springs. While Naples may be the overwhelming favorite to win 3S-16, Lely should find themselves in the mix for a playoff berth.

Schedule: Aug. 26 vs. Riverdale; Sept. 2 at Gulf Coast; Sept. 9 vs. Monsignor Pace; Sept. 16 vs. Southeast; Sept. 23 at Palmetto Ridge; Sept. 30 vs. Bonita Springs, Oct. 14 at Naples; Oct. 21 at Barron Collier; Oct. 28 vs. Golden Gate; Nov. 4 at Immokalee

Friday (Aug. 26): Riverdale 25, Lely 22

The Raiders handled a back-and-forth battle in hostile territory behind a strong defensive effort and an efficient night from senior quarterback Tyler Abrams. Abrams went 5 of 10 with 117 yards and one rushing touchdown. 

Illinois commit Jaheim Clarke and Temple commit AJ Baxter were disruptive on both sides of the ball. Clarke reeled in a 65-yard pass from Abrams to score and an 85-yard kickoff return to the house. Baxter had a 37-yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter that gave Riverdale some breathing room. The duo combined for eight tackles on the night. 

Senior Guerschom Guerrier put on a dominant showing running the ball for the Trojans. He finished the night with 212 rushing yards on 27 carries and all three of Lely’s touchdowns. Guerrier moved the sticks nine times for the Trojans. He rarely, if at all, went down after first contact. 

Late miscues put Lely in a precarious position down the stretch. A roughing the kicker call on the Trojans that gave Riverdale a free first down deep in Trojans territory, a fumble, and new formations that Trojan players were unfamiliar with were the deciding factors in this close game. 

Golden Gate

Coach: Nick Bigica (fourth season)

Last year: 4-6, missed playoffs

Overview: The Titans are one of Southwest Florida’s more interesting teams in 2022. Could Golden Gate cement its status as a top 10 team this year and as the clear second-best public school in Collier County? It’s certainly a possibility. John Lee Honorat, the team’s lone Power Five prospect, is the headliner on this squad after he totaled 965 all-purpose yards and seven touchdowns in 2021. Couple that in with adding former Palmetto Ridge defensive coordinator and East Lee head coach P.J. Gibbs to his staff, adding Javon Pray and Trayvon Jean from Palmetto Ridge, Mario Jolicoeur from First Baptist, and quarterback Brian Bachmann from Lely, the Titans are in good shape to build. 

Season outlook: This could be the year that Golden Gate makes it into the postseason, something that hasn’t happened since 2011. The schedule within the county is favorable as the Titans have a good chance at closing the season on at least a four-game win streak. Should the Titans make strides as many would expect during the season, they could be a formidable opponent down the road.

Schedule: Aug. 26 vs. North Miami; Sept. 2 at Immokalee; Sept. 9 vs. Bartow; Sept. 16 vs. Naples; Sept. 23 vs. Gulf Coast; Oct. 6 at IMG Blue; Oct. 14 vs. Barron Collier; Oct. 20 at Bonita Springs; Oct. 28 at Lely; Nov. 4 at Palmetto Ridge