The Lely football team did what Head Coach J.J. Everage feared they might do Friday night at Trojan Stadium. They showed up with a Coconut Bowl hangover they couldn’t shake, falling 42-0 to a strong Bishop Verot team from Fort Myers.
“At the beginning of the week,” began J.J. Everage, “I told the team it was on the scouting report that we couldn’t have a hangover from the thrill we had playing against Naples. The excitement we had playing Naples. You could just tell this week. I call it Wacky Week. It’s hard to get them focused back in.”
Lely lost to Naples High last Friday in the city’s longest-running rivalry. Naples has dominated Collier County high school football for the past 20 years. Lely went toe-to-toe with Naples in an emotion-charged game. Sometimes it’s hard to rebound after such a game.
It doesn’t help when you add in a couple of key injuries. Captain Carson Chambers, a key defensive cog for the Trojans, went down with a season-ending knee injury against Naples. Friday night, another captain and team leader JJ Dervil sat out the second half with concussion-like symptoms.
“We were banged up,” Everage said. “I’m not making excuses, but we lost Carson Chambers to a knee injury in the Naples game. We had to move people around. We have kids playing both ways. It’s tough moving them to new positions.”
Even with their Coconut Bowl hangover, the Trojans started strong against Bishop Verot. If not for two key turnovers, the game may have had a different outcome.
First, Lely was intercepted inside the 10-yard line on an early drive. Then a Lely running back was stripped of the ball at the goal line after an impressive 28-yard run.
“We fumble going into the end zone,” Everage said, “we throw a pick in the end zone. If we score those two plays, who knows? But throughout the game we were just wearing down.”
Lely trailed 14-0 at halftime. When Dervil could not answer the bell coming out of the locker room at halftime, the Trojans lost their offensive and defensive leader. The loss had a profound impact on the spirits of his teammates.
“JJ Dervil, our quarterback, had to take himself out of the game,” Everage said. “He was showing just a few symptoms of a concussion. It was more precautionary, just protecting him.
“He’s such a leader, it’s tough when he goes out. He makes things happen for you. He’s being recruited as a defensive back.”
The Lely offense revolves around Dervil, who is dangerous as a passer and as a runner. However, it’s his defensive skills that has the attention of Division I schools. With a healthy Dervil, Everage felt Lely matched up well against Verot early.
“If you pay attention to the game early, we’re not afraid to play man defense across the board,” Everage said. “It was working for us early. Then you lose JJ, and we’re putting other kids in that don’t quite measure up to what JJ does. Then we lose another kid. We have to move some new guys in at linebacker.
“When we lost Carson last week, we had to move Schneider Natan to his position. At this time of the year, the attrition factor is taken into account.”
Everage seems optimistic that Dervil will return to action when Lely (2-4) travels to take on another longtime rival, Barron Collier (4-2). Bishop Verot improves to 6-3.
“I think JJ will be back next week,” Everage said. “There were just a few symptoms. He banged his head on one of the sacks he took. I don’t think it’s a full-blown concussion. Hopefully, we get him back. If not next week, for the first round of the playoffs. We’ll bounce back.”