ORLANDO — When players on the Immokalee High School football team wake up this morning, they will not be celebrating as state champions.
They will, however, be celebrating like them.
The Indians are going to Disney World.
Immokalee principal Dr. Mary Murray told The News-Press after her team’s 21-20, Class 5A state championship loss to Tallahassee Godby on Friday that she would carry through with an additional night of hotel stay and a trip to see Mickey Mouse and friends today.
Murray said she planned on surprising the players with the news this morning.
The Indians, who finished their season with an 11-4 record, became the 10th team in Southwest Florida history to play for a state championship. They were hoping to become just the fourth team and the second program — Naples in 2001 and ’07 is the other — to win an outright state championship.
Immokalee won the Class 2A state title in 2004.
Immokalee rallied from a 14-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter, but fell two points short of a victory.
“It’s a tremendous honor to be in this game,” Murray said. “To have our kids try and come back, it just speaks volumes of our kids. They don’t quit. They just keep coming. It’s unfortunate it ended the way it did, but I couldn’t be more proud of our kids. They tried all night.”
The Florida High School Athletic Association announced the attendance at 3,309 fans. More than half of them appeared to be clad in red and from Immokalee, a town of about 20,000 residents.
“Somebody had to win,” said Christopher Jackson, father of Immokalee junior wide receiver J.C. Jackson and a player on the 1993 team. “Somebody had to lose. We’re still proud of the kids.”
For a mostly low-income town, reaching the title game proved a welcome respite from challenging times, said Sam Gallegos, 42 and a 1989 Immokalee High graduate and former football player.
“What does it mean to be here?” said Gallegos, owner of the Chili Caliente Mexican restaurant in Immokalee. “I played ball all my life and never had this opportunity. We have enough negativity as it is. It’s nice to have something positive.”