Lely High School’s JJ Dervil and Sergio Morancy feel like they’ve been best friends since they were in their mothers’ wombs.
“We were best friends before we were born,” said Sergio Morancy, “our moms were like best friends—like sisters. Before we were even alive we were friends.”
“Yes, yes,” agreed JJ Dervil.
“We’re best friends,” Morancy affirmed.
“Brothers, basically,” Dervil said, flashing his easy smile.
Dervil and Morancy are three-sport stars at Lely High School. Both play football at a Division 1 level. Dervil is the quarterback, Morancy his top receiver. They’re both standout defensive backs. Both excel in basketball, executing highlight film-worthy slam dunks just about every game. Just like on the football field, Dervil has the ball in his hands most of the time on the basketball court as he directs Lely’s high-energy attack. Morancy is his wingman. Morancy also stars on the track team, while Dervil’s third sport is baseball.
It’s their football exploits that landed the duo Division 1 scholarships. Dervil to New Mexico State and Morancy to the University of Northern Iowa. However, they both excel in all three of their chosen sports.
“These guys are amazing,” said Lely’s Head Basketball Coach Fritz Jacques, who has also served a stint as Lely’s Head Football Coach. “They’re three–sport athletes.”
Jacques shares a Haitian heritage with Dervil and Morancy. He’s more than their coach on the field and court. He’s also their life coach, and he knows there are a lot of impressionable eyes watching him and his proteges.
“They show kids you don’t have to just do one sport,” Jacques emphasizes. “You can be great in three sports and your options to get out of here opens up a little bit. Like Sergio, he’s a track star—and when I say star, he’s a track star, he’s a football star, he’s a basketball star. JJ’s a basketball star, he’s a football star, he’s a baseball star. They’re not just average. Again, it just shows the kids here, you don’t have to have tunnel vision on just one thing. You can open up your options a little bit.”
They both have benefited from being part of the Lely family. They’re particularly close to Jacques, who everyone refers to as Coach Fritz, and Counselor Beth Tilley Colman, who they both credit with being like a mother and father to them.
They both hold Jacques in the highest regard.
“It goes back to the summer going into my seventh-grade year,” Dervil recalls. “He had a little camp. From right then and there, I can basically say he’s been a second father to me. Actually, he’s a father for me, just say.”
“I’ve been watching Coach Fritz coach since I was little,” Morancy said. “Because my sisters and my cousins came through Lely. So, I was at a lot of football games, on the sidelines. He didn’t know who I was, but I knew Coach Fritz, with the dreads, yelling and screaming on the sidelines. Football games and basketball games. The first time I talked to Coach Fritz was probably the summer before my freshman year. Ever since then, he’s always on me. He’s like my second father.
“A lot of kids who played didn’t really have a dad,” Morancy continued. “He always steps up and always cares for us. He always says, ‘If you need anything, call me.’ He always comes through.”
“Always,” Dervil jumps in. “He will always come through for us. And he always keeps it real.”
Jacques is revered by the Haitian community. He is one of them; he grew up in Naples, starred at Lely and went on to stand out as a Division 1 defensive back at Kent State University. His grit was recognized by ESPN in 2007 when he was named to the All-Mayday team after showing “a tremendous amount of toughness and determination” in coming back from what appeared to be a career-ending ACL tear. The All-Mayday team was selected by ESPN’s Mark May and was comprised of 24 players, 11 on offense, 11 on defense, two specialists and a head coach who, in May’s opinion, represented the “toughest of the tough” in all of college football.
According to kentstatesports.com, Jacques decided against surgery and instead rehabbed his knee and returned to action in four weeks. He made 16 tackles in the final three games of the season.
“I made a lot of mistakes in my life,” Jacques said. “I just try to give these kids the reality. I don’t sugar coat it. I know sometimes it comes off harsh. I try to explain it to ‘em. In the real world, people don’t just tap you on the hand when you make a mistake. You can really ruin your life. I try to teach these kids that. Live through my mistakes. Live through these adults, these teachers, these coaches’ mistakes. Listen to ‘em, because they’ve made mistakes and they’re trying to keep you on the right path.”
Both athletes flash big smiles when school counselor Beth Tilley Colman’s name is mentioned.
’That’s been another big impact on me,” Dervil said of Colman. “She’s kept me coolheaded; kept me in check. She’s been my second mom; another part of the family I have. I can always rely on her.”
“I wasn’t always a big school guy,” Morancy admits. “Sometimes I get lazy in school, but she always stays on me. Always tells me I need to keep up with my work. She’s always there for me, supporting me. Yeah, she is like a second mother to me.”
Colman gets emotional when asked how it makes her feel knowing both Dervil and Morancy look at her as a mother figure.
“Better than anything I could ever explain,” said Colman. “I don’t have kids of my own, so these kids at school are like my own kids. And kids like JJ and Sergio stand out to me as true kids of my own. I will stay in touch with them, support them for as long as they need me. I’ll be around. I love them like they are my own.”
What they have in Colman and Jacques is not lost on the teenagers.
“We’re blessed,” Morancy said.
“We’re very blessed,” Dervil concurs.
“We’re two people who have second parents at school to keep us straight when our parents aren’t around,” Morancy said.
Not too many athletes excel in three sports. So how do they pick a favorite? It wasn’t really hard for either athlete; they both like football the best.
“But track is a close second,” Morancy said.
“Basketball is a close second,” Dervil said.
While football is their favorite sport, another sport is the most fun for them.
“I’ll say basketball is the most fun,” Morancy added.
“Yes, basketball is the most fun,” Dervil agreed as he spoke about his basketball experience at Lely. “The work you put in for all fun and excitement, that’s the hard part.”
“I’ll say basketball is the hardest sport,” Morancy said.
The experience of playing in a rivalry game in the Trojan gymnasium is among the very best high school memories for Dervil and Morancy.
“Oh, it’s fun,” Morancy said, “I have to hold back the smiles.”
“It’s exciting,” Dervil agrees. “You can’t hear anything that’s going on except the crowd going crazy.”
“Coach Fritz is pretty loud,” Morancy said, “so sometimes I can hear him, but sometimes I can’t hear him. The district basketball championship our sophomore year. That game I dunked on Immokalee’s best player.”
“Sophomore year when we played Naples here and we beat them in overtime,” Dervil said. “Oh my gosh, that was so exciting. I had like seven, eight blocks. The crowd was crazy. All you could hear was a thundering noise.”
“Coach Fritz always tells us you can feel the ground shake,” Morancy said.
“I never believed the ground would actually shake,” Dervil added.
“The ground was shaking,” Morancy said incredulously. “I was like, ‘Whoa!’”
“Oh my, I love that environment,” Dervil said, “I love that feeling.”
“I looked up one time, in overtime,” Morancy said, “my mom’s quiet. I looked up and she was standing and screaming. I thought, ‘Oh, wow, this is real.’ That was the most fun; that win against Naples.”
Colman feels strongly that Dervil and Morancy will be remembered at their high school for a long, long time. She’s counseling them to step up and be the leaders of this year’s basketball team that she knows they can be.
“JJ and Sergio have been two of the best athletes and two of the best young men who have come through Lely High School,” Colman asserted. “They absolutely have left a mark, academically, athletically, socially. They’ve set an example for everyone, that’s for sure. They have treated the kids here very well. They’re very well respected by the other kids. The other kids look up to them a great deal.
“We were just having that talk about leadership. I was just telling them that they have an absolutely wonderful opportunity to lead this team. They know it. I think that they are the leaders, they know it, and they’re going to try to take that opportunity as much as possible. If they don’t try, they’re never going to get any better at it. That’s the message I’m trying to send to them. They’re good boys.”
Interestingly, if it wasn’t for the support they provide for each other, Dervil and Morancy may not have a legacy to leave behind at Lely High School. Both were determined to quit playing sports altogether.
Morancy was 7 years old when he decided sports weren’t for him.
“Growing up, I didn’t like sports,” Morancy said. “It used to be me and my grandma. I’d help her out in the house. If I was not with JJ, I was with my grandma all the time.”
“I brought him back into it,” Dervil said with a laugh. “Then we ended up playing together.”
“After that first year, I came back,” Morancy said. “ I was good. I didn’t really know I was that good. Everybody was like, ‘Oh, you gotta keep playing, keep on playing.’ My mom said to me, ‘Every time I go to the game everybody is coming up to me saying, Oh, are you Sergio’s mom? He’s so good.’ I was like 7 years old. After the first year, I wasn’t sure I wanted to come back, but my mom wanted me to. So, I was like, ‘alright, then, I’ll keep on playing.’ I ended up falling in love with it.”
“Then me,” Dervil said, “I ended up quitting my eighth-grade year, and he brought me back my freshman year. Sophomore year I quit again, and he brought me back my junior and senior year.”
It turns out Dervil’s mother had trouble watching her baby getting banged up on the football field and tried to talk him into concentrating on baseball.
“My mom is very heavy on the baseball,” Dervil said. “I started taking baseball more seriously. She babies me a little bit. She didn’t want me to be hurt.”
Both Dervil and Morancy had high praise for their football coach, J. J. Everage, a relative newcomer to the Lely family. Everage just completed his second year as Lely’s head football coach. He led Lely to a winning season his first season at the helm. This year, he earned Lely’s first playoff victory since 2014.
“For someone I’ve only known for 2 years, he’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever had,” Dervil said.
“He’s doing something with these boys here,” Morancy said, “he’s changing it around.”
“Just wait on him,” Dervil said. “This football program is going to be something with him.”
“He’s changing the culture,” Morancy said, “he’s changing everything. He’s doing a good job. I love coach Everage.”
“I like everything about him,” Dervil said. “He has serious moments. When he gets pumped, he is pumped! He has a switch when he’s pumped. For someone who came in, yeah… he changed the culture.”
“He’s got us ahead of schedule,” Morancy said. “We’re in great hands.”
Dervil and Morancy watched a lot of their teammates from youth football go to competing high schools to play football. They would both like to see the players stay home and play at Lely.
“A lot of our friends are on other teams,” Morancy said. “A lot of kids we played with, that we went to middle school with.”
“I’ll just throw it out there,” Dervil said. “We would have loved to have them on this side of town.”
Throughout their youth, both Dervil and Morancy were encouraged to attend other schools in the county. They are both glad they remained loyal to Lely.
“I think the environment is different at Lely,” Morancy said. “I don’t think they have the same atmosphere at the other schools. It’s a fun environment at Lely.”
“I’d say 95% of the time you’ll see everybody with a smile on their faces,” Dervil said. “It’s fun. The teachers keep it fun. Let us do a lot of activities. Get us working, really.”
Dealing with the COVID-19 Pandemic has been challenging. Trojan gym is quiet by Lely standards.
“It’s very different,” Dervil said, “but our team brings the energy and the excitement. The fans, they would be lovely, they bring energy, but our boys bring all the energy we need.”
“Coach Fritz always tells us, ‘Bring the energy,’” Morancy said. “No matter how packed the gym is, it shouldn’t matter. We should bring the energy.”
There’s no doubt that Jacques brings the energy every day.
“Oh yes sir, every day,” Dervil said.
“Practice, games,” Morancy fills in for Dervil.
“And you’ll always catch him with a Red Bull,” Dervil adds with a laugh. “Always catch him with a Red Bull.”
“Everything he does is energy,” Morancy said.
What was once a constant flow of major college recruiters courting the talented pair slowed to a drip when the pandemic set in.
“It was picking up in January and February, through spring break,” Dervil said. “We had a bunch of coaches coming through. Then after spring break, nobody came back. There was no spring football, no nothing. No 7 on 7s. You couldn’t even leave the house.”
The man they know they can always count on, Coach Fritz, came through for them at the eleventh hour. When both athletes were looking for a Division 1 scholarship on the Early Signing Day, Jacques jumped into action.
“Earlier in the year when I reached out to a whole bunch of coaches I know, they thought these guys were too big for their school, per se,” Jacques said. “But when I found out what the situation was—on early signing day—I made some phone calls that night. By the end of the night, I had a couple of offers for Serg and a couple of offers for JJ.”
However, typical of Jacques, he deflected any credit. He gave the glory to a higher power.
“That’s a blessing,” Jacques explained. “That’s not me, that’s God’s work. God put them in my life. God put those coaches in my life. That’s God working. That’s why they’re going to where they’re going.”
“It didn’t happen as we planned,” Morancy said, “but I’m happy with where I’m at right now.”
“I’m very happy with where I’m at right now,” Dervil agreed.
Jacques has a couple more months to coach Dervil and Morancy on the hardwoods. The basketball season is still young, and the Trojans are 4-5, 1-1 in the district.
“It’s been an amazing experience with both of them,” he said. “They’re best friends, so you tend to get the same out of both of them. They’re competitors. I’ve challenged both of them in both football and basketball and they’ve stepped up to the challenge. Now they have an opportunity to do something great for their families. Change the narrative, you know. Like I’ve told them, I’m so proud of them. They’re success stories. They’re going to college. As long as they come home with that degree, we’re happy. That’s a win for the home team. They’re going to go represent and I’m proud of them for that.”