It’s been a trying varsity football season at Lely High School – especially after the Trojans won eight games and reached the second round of the Florida High School Athletic Association state playoffs last year.
However, the path through the 2015 regular season became a little less bumpy Friday night.
Lely earned its second win of the season, defeating Cypress Lake 27-8 in a Breast Cancer Awareness Game at Trojan Field. Sophomore quarterback Jacquez Carter accounted for three touchdowns, Lik Estilien scored on a 56-yard run and strong efforts from the defense and special teams helped carry the Trojans to a key Class 5A-District 12 victory.
“The special teams did a great job. I thought our secondary stepped up, as did our perimeter blocking and passing [game],” Lely head coach Culmer St. Jean said. “I thought we did a good job all the way around, but I think we can still polish up some things.”
Just having an opportunity to qualify for the state playoffs provides a much-needed confidence boost for Lely, which dropped six of its opening seven games. Granted, those seven opponents combined for a 34-16 overall record through Week 8 and that included matchups against a pair of state-ranked Class 6A programs (Naples and Charlotte).
Lely (2-6) owns a 2-1 district record and can secure the 5A-12 runner-up spot with a victory next Friday at Immokalee (3-5, 2-1). Dunbar (7-1, 3-0), which defeated Lely 14-13 on Sept. 18, clinched the 5A-12 championship with Friday’s 21-13 win over Immokalee.
“It would be great. We put ourselves in this position – we had an opportunity to beat Dunbar and we didn’t get it done,” St. Jean said. “We did win our next two district games and now it comes down to us and Immokalee. It’s been like that the last three years, so it’s the same story.”
Lely went into its game Friday after suffering a 10-touchdown defeat to Naples on Oct. 9 in the annual Coconut Bowl. St. Jean acknowledged that a Week 8 bye gave the Trojans additional time to focus on themselves rather than the next opponent.
“That first week we didn’t look at Cypress Lake until Thursday,” he said. “All we worried about was Lely and just getting ourselves together and trying to have a second half of the season where we have a chance to make it to the playoffs.”
Lely used four different running backs in the first half Friday en route to a 20-0 lead.
With starter Calerb D’Haiti and Jerry Casimir banged up in the opening quarter, Lely turned to Jason Jean and wide receiver Lik Estilien to also line up behind Carter.
“We have players and I don’t that’s a big issue,” St. Jean said. “The next man in is a good philosophy that we have because all the players that step in have the ability. I think it’s just about executing. That’s what we’ve really got to think about…just getting things done the way we want it to be done.”
Hakeem Durity’s interception and return to the Cypress Lake 37-yard line helped set up Lely’s first touchdown.
The Trojans reached the 23-yard line where Carter rolled to his right on third-and-16 and threw back across the field to a wide open Jean Joseph. Noah Reich added the extra point for a 7-0 lead with 2:10 left in the first quarter.
Carter’s 11-yard TD run on a read-option keeper made it 13-0 with 6:30 remaining before halftime. Estilien fueled the four-play drive with three carries for 56 yards.
An Austin Brooks sack forced Cypress Lake (2-6, 1-3) to punt with just over two minutes left in the first half. Lely then drove 51 yards in four plays, with Carter finding Tajon Wright for a 28-yard touchdown pass at the 1:16 mark.
Estilien outran the Cypress Lake defense for an impressive 56-yard touchdown and Reich kicked the point after, upping the advantage to 27-0 with 5:13 to go in the third quarter.
Cypress Lake standout running back Cliff Moore scored from 11 yards early in the fourth quarter to end Lely’s shutout bid. Up to that point, the Panthers had struggled against an aggressive Lely defense that was successful in preventing big plays.
Josh Wagner also recorded a first-half interception for Lely, while Joseph consistently gave the Trojans good field position with positive punt returns.
SCORE BY QUARTER
CL 0 | 0 | 0 | 8 || 8
L 7 | 13 | 7 | 0 || 27
L – Jean Joseph 23 pass from Jacquez Carter (Noah Reich kick)
L – Carter 11 run (Reich kick)
L – Tajon Wright 28 pass from Carter (kick blocked)
L – Lik Estilien 56 run (Reich kick)
CL – Cliff Moore 11 run (Yasir Abdullah run)
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