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Lely football coach Fritz Jacques says his team did plenty of things correctly in 14-9 loss to Clewiston Andrew Sodergren, andy.sodergren@naplesnews.com, 239-263-4731

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To turn around a football program that’s been mired in losing seasons and staff turnover, Lely High School needed someone with experience.

J.J. Everage comes to Naples’ second-oldest football team with plenty of it. The Kentucky native has seven years as a head coach on his resumé, not to mention time as both offensive and defensive coordinators, and experience coaching just about every position on the field.

On Tuesday afternoon, Lely athletic director Bill Mottola announced the hiring of Everage to take over the Trojans. He replaces Fritz Jacques, who resigned Feb. 28 after two seasons to focus on his position as Lely’s boys basketball head coach.

 

“We wanted someone with a lot of experience who, if possible, coached on both sides of the ball,” Mottola said. “(Everage) has a great demeanor with the players and assistant coaches. He’s just a guy who’s got passion for the game but who’s also even-keeled enough to be able to communicate and get everybody on the same page.”

Everage, 46, spent 20 years coaching in his home state, beginning as an offensive coordinator at his alma mater, Knott County Central in southeastern Kentucky, at the age of 19.

He was an offensive coordinator at Montgomery County when the team won back-to-back regional titles, then was the head coach at his alma mater before becoming defensive coordinator at Somerset. Everage finished his time in Kentucky as the head coach at Paris High from 2007-11.

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In 2012, Everage and his wife and four daughters moved to Southwest Florida. The coach started as an assistant at Lehigh and was there for six seasons (2012-2017). Everage was the offensive coordinator in 2016 when the Lightning went 6-4 and made the playoffs for the first time in 10 years behind running back Chris Curry, now at LSU.

Everage took last season off from coaching to help his wife in her career and be with his family. But he said he still had the football itch and he’s happy to be back in the game.

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“Being at Lehigh … I saw Lely on film and I was impressed with the talent they had,” Everage said. “I had to get back into coaching – I was getting bored sitting at home – so when the job came open I jumped at the chance.”

Everage takes over a program that hasn’t had much success or stability lately.

The Trojans went 2-8 each of the past two seasons. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2014, which is Lely’s only regional appearance in the past 11 years.

When the 2019 campaign begins, Everage will be Lely’s seventh head coach in 11 seasons. No coach has lasted longer than three seasons since Chris Metzger left after the 2006 season.

Mottola said he plans to give Everage time to build a program and bring the consistency Lely has lacked in recent years.

“Part of building a culture is having time to get there,” Mottola said. “We never really talk about wins and losses. It’s more about, ‘Are our kids on time? How are they acting in school?’ and other things that build culture. Once you get that stuff in place, winning is a byproduct of doing the right thing.”

The Trojans’ AD said 76 people applied for the coaching job. A committee of seven sorted the resumés down to five finalists before choosing Everage.

The new coach's next job is rounding out his coaching staff. Though Everage has experience calling offense and defense, he plans to hire coordinators to do both. Everage said he will tailor his schemes to his players’ strengths rather than installing a system he’s used in the past.

“I’m excited to be here and to get to know the community,” said Everage, who will teach social studies at Lely. “I look forward to competing against all the other Collier County schools. I know that the bar is high in Collier as far as football. I look forward to building a program the community can be proud of.”

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