Immokalee High football coach Jerrod Ackley’s coaching resume does not list a stint under Chip Kelly at the University of Oregon but you would think it might after seeing the Indians’ performance in a Region 5A-3 semifinal game on Friday night.
The Indians took more than just a page from Oregon’s playbook as they showcased a no-huddle spread offense at a speed that East Lee County struggled to keep up with in a 30-12 victory over the Jaguars at Gary Bates Stadium in Immokalee.
Senior quarterback Tshumbi Johnson passed for 267 yards and two touchdowns and the Indians finished with 415 yards of total offense.
The victory earns Immokalee (9-3) its second consecutive berth in the Region 5A-3 final. It will host Lake Wales at Gary Bates Stadium next Friday.
“We’ve really done better with the pace of our offense recently,” Ackley said. “I think that was one of the missing elements early in the season. In practice, we have really tried to go a lot more up-tempo. It just plays to our strength with our team speed.”
Not to be overshadowed, Immokalee’s defense was stout as well. The Indians finished the game with six sacks and forced East Lee (7-5) to turn the ball over five times. Senior Xavier Richardson had two interceptions for the Indians.
“Each down we get better and better,” senior defensive tackle Deadrin Senat said. “This was important to us. The defense is really starting to click. Going into the third round of the playoffs, we need that.”
Immokalee played without junior running back D’Ernest Johnson, who is verbally committed to the University of Florida, because of an ankle injury. West Virginia verbal commitment Jacky Marcellus started the game at running back for the Indians but left in the first half and did not return after tweaking his knee.
Ackley is hopeful that both players are available against Lake Wales next week.
Junior J.C. Jackson, who is verbally committed to Florida State, opened the game’s scoring with an 11-yard touchdown run. Sophomore Taeler Porter put Immokalee up 14-0 in the second quarter with a 5-yard touchdown run and kicker Jesus Velazco booted a 40-yard field goal from the right hash as time expired in the first half to push the Indian lead up to 17-0 at halftime.
The Indian offense went into hyper speed in the final minute of the first half as it drove 65 yards in just under one minute to set up Velazco’s kick.
“When we run that hurry-up offense, it’s so the other team will get tired,” Senat admitted. “It looks good when we do it because of all of our speed.”
While East Lee struggled to run the ball, the Jaguars were successful through the air for much of the night. Junior quarterback Winfred Ward passed for 207 yards and two touchdowns but was intercepted three times.
His first touchdown pass went to senior tight end Sheldon Fleming on a 10-yard score on a fourth-down play late in the third quarter. East concluded the game’s scoring when Ward hit senior wide receiver David Campbell on a 6-yard touchdown late in the fourth.
“They are big, strong and fast,” East Lee coach Scott Jones said of Immokalee. “They were killing us on the sweeps.
“They have, what, 10 or 11 D-1 players? We have one…They are a great team. They should win it all, I think.”
The loss ended the most successful season in school history for East, which won the school’s first district championship and the school’s first state playoff game.
“At the most this year we had 33 varsity players,” Jones said. “These kids have grown up a bunch. They were tough.”
Immokalee: J.C. Jackson 11 run (Jesus Velazco kick)
Immokalee: Taeler Porter 5 run (Velazco kick)
Immokalee: Velazco 40 FG
Immokalee: Jummy Victorin 32 pass from Tshumbi Johnson (pass failed)
East Lee County: Sheldon Fleming 10 pass from Winfred Ward (run failed)
Immokalee: Ralph Martinez 44 pass from Johnson (Velazco kick)
East Lee County: David Campbell 6 pass from Ward (pass failed)