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Spring football roundup: Naples falls to Venice, Oasis plays in jamboree

Oct 08, 2023

A roundup of Southwest Florida spring football games played on Thursday, May 18 and Friday, May 19:

The Ben Hammer era at Lely got off to a strong start with the Trojans’ spring game win over Estero, 28-27.

"What we are proud of is being down seven at half and battling back," Hammer said. "Battling back, buying into what we’re doing. We had the blocked punt, we could’ve hung our heads there. And they didn't, they fought back and played Lely Trojan football."

The game was competitive for all four quarters, and gave both squads valuable opportunities to see where their team stands headed into summer workouts. They traded scores for most of the contest, but the Wildcats jumped out to a 10-point lead in the second quarter behind efficient drives.

Lely found their rhythm in the second half, led by senior quarterback Colin Raymond. Hammer and company had their squad putting together fast and balanced drives that tested the Wildcats both in the trenches and in the air. The end result was a Trojan win, sealed by a defensive stand in their own territory that forced a turnover on downs with a minute to play.

1. The Trojans are looking to push tempo under Hammer's new-look no huddle offense. It worked well for Lely, who has explosive talent in the backfield with Jayvian Tanelus, and at wideout with Jayce Cora and Josh Philogene. "Execution wise, we still have miles to go," Hammer said. " But our potential is sky-high, through the roof."

2. First-year quarterback Colin Raymond has the foundations of a solid varsity starter. His biggest challenge in Friday's win was handling the snap. Raymond finished 18-of-22 with over two passing yards and an interception. With a summer of improvement and training coming his way, expect Raymond to be an integral part of the Trojans’ run-and-gun offense.

3. Expect Tanelus to be a problem for opposing defenses. "For a kid who is a freshman, going to be a sophomore, he is a stud," Hammer said. "What a kind of breakout performance." Tanelus, in his first game playing offense on varsity, rushed for 189 yards and two touchdowns on 26 touches.

1. Matt Wilson looks poised to lead the Wildcats to another winning season. The senior quarterback went 12-of-15 with a touchdown, and made some impressive throws under pressure. In moments the Wildcat offense seemed to falter, Wilson would come up with timely completions that moved the sticks and gave Estero the ability to regroup.

2. Malik Allen looked in mid-season form in the loss. He rushed for 134 yards with two touchdowns on 25 carries. "I saw Malik be Malik," said Estero head coach Darren Nelson. "He's very good, our offensive line is good, I like our rushing attack. Malik's really going to have a breakout year."

3. The Wildcats struggled in crunch time. Although it is a spring game, Estero made several small errors that compounded into costly drives, including a turnover on downs in the final minute inside Lely territory. "All in all, it was good competition," Nelson said. "I guarantee that's going to be hard film to watch because we had it, but we made a lot of mistakes at the end. Give them credit, but there were also some things that we need to do better and should’ve done better."

— Nick Wilson

For the majority of the North Fort Myers High School football team, Friday's spring game against Port Charlotte was an introduction to varsity football.

New Red Knights head coach David Pasquale estimated that about 85% of his roster hadn't played a down of football above the junior varsity level before facing off against a seasoned Pirates' squad.

While North struggled at times to hold up against Port Charlotte's superior size on the lines, there were some bright spots for the Red Knights to take into the summer.

"For these kids to come out and fly around, put some points on the board, I’m proud of what we put on film," Pasquale said. "Port Charlotte's a good football team; they’ve got some really talented players. But we came out and our guys didn't waver.

"We’ll learn from this game and we’ll get better."

The Pirates scored touchdowns on five of their six first-half possessions, taking a 34-7 lead into the half.

North gained just over 100 yards in the first two quarters with the highlight coming on a 45-yard touchdown connection from quarterback Bryce Duross to wideout Andre Devine.

Port Charlotte rushed for more than 400 yards with rising senior Edd Guerrier gaining a game-best 108 yards and scoring two touchdowns. Quarterbacks Jonathan Squitieri and Eli Manley each passed for more than 100 yards with Manley tossing a 36-yard touchdown pass to Jamal Streeter. The rising senior wideout caught nine passes for 151 yards.

1. The Red Knights need to get in the weight room. With so many underclassmen, North needs a productive offseason of adding size and strength, especially up front. "You can definitely tell that we’re young and thin but we’re going to get bigger, faster and stronger," Pasquale said.

2. Duross looks to be a solid starter under center. The rising senior completed 9-of-16 passes against the Pirates for 94 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He showed toughness as a runner and hung in the pocket against some heavy pressure at times from the Port Charlotte defense. "He's a long way from being great but he's doing a great job," Pasquale said. "His leadership and professionalism at the position has gone to a whole different level."

3. The scoreboard doesn't matter in the spring. While every team wants to head into the summer of a spring game victory, for a young "Nobody's winning the state championship in the spring," Pasquale said. "We’re out here to get better and that's what we did. We took 20 days of spring football and we got better as a program."

– Dan DeLuca

After trailing 35-7 at halftime, the Golden Eagles came within 4 yards of pulling even with the Indians at the start of the fourth quarter.

The Venice defense had the last say, forcing a turnover on a field goal attempt to thwart the Naples comeback but that didn't diminish head coach Rick Martin's pride in his team's effort.

"Holy smokes," he said. "First of all, all the credit goes to Venice High School. Great program, great team. That's why we put them on the schedule. We wanted to get better this spring, and that's exactly what we did."

More:Spring football game previews for Naples, Estero, Lely and North Fort Myers. What you need to know

Venice dominated the first half, getting on the board with a quick pass from Jadyn Glasser to Jayce Barksdale for a 21-yard score, followed by a goal-line rushing touchdown by Alvin Johnson.

Naples quarterback Jack Melton scored on a 3-yard rushing touchdown, but that was followed by Glasser finding Deylen Platt for a 59-yard score.

Naples was plagued by turnovers in the first half, including a Melton pick-six, returned by Venice's Adam Papantonakis.

The Indians extended their lead with Johnson's second score, an 18-yard rushing touchdown.

"We’re a young ball club," Martin said. "We got a lot of young kids that have just played JV football, and this was their first varsity game, so that's a pretty tall task to go play a team that's been to two straight state titles and let that be your first ever varsity experience."

After halftime, Martin watched his group settle down and put together a spectacular quarter of football.

It was ignited by defensive lineman Brady Clark who intercepted a deflected pass by Venice quarterback Ryan Downes and returned it for a touchdown.

The team kept chipping away, with Melton throwing a 54-yard touchdown pass down the sideline to Damarion Salters and running in his second score of the night.

The fourth quarter began with the Eagles at first-and-goal from the 4-yard line, but they were unable to convert. A botched snap on their 29-yard field goal attempt led to points the other way, courtesy of Platt's scoop-and-score.

Johnson got in the end zone for a third time to extend the lead, but, after a shaky start, the Eagles proved themselves to be worthy competition.

"For them boys to come out like they did in the second half and show their character and show who they really are – I’m proud of these men," Martin said.

1. Shawn Simeon was the Eagles’ bell cow – and produced. The sophomore rushed for 213 yards on 40 carries. He became tougher to bring down as the night went on with three of his four runs of 20-plus yards coming in the second half.

"We knew that was going to happen," Martin said. "I’ve known that for probably since last year. It's a testament to him working his butt off all offseason. It's a testament to his offensive line, working their butts off and believing in each other and just everybody contributing to what we did tonight."

2. The Naples coaching staff got a good look at their quarterbacks. Melton split time with Carter Quinn throughout the game. Melton produced more in the running and passing game – including three touchdowns – but was also responsible for a pair of turnovers in the first half.

"I think both of them competed, and they held their composure and did what we asked them to do and that was what we wanted to see," Martin said. "We weren't trying to get too much out of them. … I’m happy with both of their performances."

3. Naples said "not so fast" to the narrative. Naturally, losing talents like Jean Tanelus, Kerry Brown, and Jonas Duclona on defense and Kendrick Raphael and Isaiah Augustave will raise questions. But, with the gritty comeback the Eagles mounted on Thursday, Martin believe in the promise of the next men up.

"Let's be honest – I think everybody thinks we’re down. I think everybody's doubting us," he said. "I think everybody thinks that this is the year to get Naples, and it might be, but tonight I think we showed that we got some young guys that aren't afraid of the moment and guys that are good football players too."

– Dustin Levy

In the first half, Out-of-Door defeated Bradenton Christian, 7-6. Oasis and Out-of-Door played to a 3-all tie in the second quarter. Bradenton Christian wrapped things up with a 6-0 verdict over Oasis before announcing Strawderman's appointment.

1. Against Out-of-Door, Ryan Rosado kicked a field goal as time expired to get the tie. With the running clock, the Sharks had to rush their field goal unit on the field and just beat the horn. Colin Anderson had a couple of big runs early and ran for some tough yards late. Sean McFee recovered a fumble. On the tying drive, quarterback Parker Smith had a long run and threw a pass to Tommy Murphy, who made a bobbling catch.

2. Against Bradenton Christian, Smith connected with Murphy on a sideline pattern. James Wagenhoffer broke up a pass. Wyatt Wilkinson had a tackle for a loss and a sack on fourth down during one series. Logan Conley and Wagenhoffer each had tackles for a loss before Bradenton Christian's touchdown.

3. Coach Jason Grain: "Our guys played with intensity and effort. We dressed 20 players and they left it on the line. Great toughness. Great character. Every year is a new team, so I wanted to set the culture for this team. I wanted to see what we had. Our kids have done a great job in the spring. They have been very, very tough. In the next stage of our progression, we have to be a championship team in terms of execution."

– Dennis Maffezzoli

Lely 28, Estero 27 Three Lely takeaways 1. The Trojans are looking to push tempo under Hammer's new-look no huddle offense. First-year quarterback Colin Raymond has the foundations of a solid varsity starter. Expect Tanelus to be a problem for opposing defenses. Three Estero takeaways 1. Matt Wilson looks poised to lead the Wildcats to another winning season Malik Allen looked in mid-season form in the loss. The Wildcats struggled in crunch time. 1. The Red Knights need to get in the weight room. 2. Duross looks to be a solid starter under center. 3. The scoreboard doesn't matter in the spring. Thursday's games More: 1. Shawn Simeon was the Eagles’ bell cow – and produced. 2. The Naples coaching staff got a good look at their quarterbacks. 3. Naples said "not so fast" to the narrative.