Big hits outnumbered first downs, especially in the first half, as Lely defended their home turf admirably against longtime County bully Naples High in the 46th playing of the Coconut Bowl Friday night.
The game was scoreless until Naples kicked a 41-yard field goal as the first half ended. When the dust settled, Naples was on the good end of a 16-6 decision. However, the Eagles left Trojan Stadium knowing they were in a battle.
“You’ve gotta give credit to Lely,” said rookie Naples Head Coach Rick Martin, coaching in his first Coconut Bowl. “They’re a great team. They had a great game plan. They just hung out and fought. And it’s the Coconut Bowl, right? I told my coaches; I’ve been around this game 20 years. I played in this game. Lely always comes out and gives you a great game. Great atmosphere, great fans. We knew it was going to be something like this.”
Martin played for legendary Naples Head Coach Bill Kramer, who retired after 22 seasons with Naples. He was a lineman on Kramer’s 2001 state championship team.
Second-year Lely Head Coach J.J. Everage, while disappointed in the loss, was proud of the effort his team put forward.
“I can’t take anything away from our kids,” Everage said. “They did what we asked them to do for four quarters. We just got tired. We’re playing a lot of kids both ways and the attrition factor just kicked in. My hats off to my guys. This game means a lot to these kids. They grew up together on both teams. They played Pop Warner together.”
Lely held a 6-3 lead, albeit briefly, when quarterback JJ Dervil beat Naples defenders to the end zone pylon on a four-yard touchdown run with 6:01 left in the third quarter.
Naples running back Kendrick Raphael bolted 65 yards on Naples’ next play from scrimmage for the go-ahead touchdown with 5:44 left in the quarter. After a successful extra–point kick, Naples led 10-6.
Lely had a final scoring opportunity when they had the ball at the eight-yard line after a 50-yard Dervil-to-Anthony Felix connection. On fourth down, Everage called for the field goal team. A high snap foiled the field goal attempt.
As Lely tired, Raphael ripped off big gains, finishing with 185 yards on 20 carries.
Everage couldn’t help but think back to last season and his first Coconut Bowl when Naples trounced his Trojans, 45-0.
“My kids, I can’t say enough about ‘em. The turnaround from when I first got here. Last year, we had a running clock against Naples,” stated Everage. “I told them to keep their heads high. It’s a good feeling to know your kids care enough that it hurts. They take losses hard. They’re competitive, they don’t expect to lose any games. The oldest rivalry.”
Lely, 2-3, hosts Bishop Verot, 5-3, on Friday, October 30. Naples hosts a winless Golden Gate. Martin lost his first game as Naples’ Head Coach but has bounced back to win five straight games.