Watching film of Daytona Beach Mainland in preparation for tonight’s Region 5A-3 final, Naples High School football coach Bill Kramer reached a series of sobering conclusions.
“These guys are at a whole different level.”
“They have by far the toughest defense we’ve seen all season.”
“They’re explosive on offense. Their quarterback may be the most dynamic player we’ve seen ever.”
“They have about 15 guys that we can’t simulate in practice.”
Good thing for the Golden Eagles games aren’t decided by film.
While it’s true a tale of the tape may give the overall edge in size and speed to the Buccaneers (9-3), Naples under Kramer’s direction has a habit of beating opponents who decisively win the eye test by simply, well, outplaying them.
That wasn’t the case last season when, in this very same postseason round, the Golden Eagles turned the ball over seven times in a 27-16 loss at Mainland.
“Obviously you can’t do that against anybody and expect to win,” Kramer said. “The good thing is we have enough guys back playing this year that have a sense of the size and speed of Mainland. That’s very valuable.”
Also key is tonight’s game will take place in the friendly confines of Staver Field, where the Golden Eagles are 21-3 in state playoff games during Kramer’s tenure.
To beat the Buccaneers for the first time in the postseason (Mainland also defeated Naples 24-13 in the 2003 Class 5A state championship game), the Golden Eagles will look to their offensive line to neutralize a talented Bucs front seven, headlined by senior defensive end Quinton Powell, a Florida commit, 5-foot-11, 280-pound senior nose tackle Jontey Byrd and junior linebacker Ricky Norris.
“They’re athletic and they’re bigger than us, but we’ve played a lot of teams like that,” Naples senior right guard Cody Weeks said. “We’ll be ready.”
“When the guy lining up across from you is a BCS prospect, it makes you want it that much more,” Naples senior left guard Frank Cirone added. “It’s going to be a war.”
Despite its defensive talent, Mainland surrendered a total of 75 points in playoff wins over Lake Gibson and Winter Haven. The Buccaneers escaped those games largely due to the exploits of senior quarterback Cameron Hadley, who accounted for nearly 900 total offensive yards and nine touchdowns in the two victories.
“He is a phenomenal athlete and unbelievable competitor,” Kramer said of Hadley. “He’s got that combination. He’s not going to get discouraged.”
Kramer said he believes last week’s successful bout with adversity – Naples trailed host South Fort Myers 21-14 at halftime, its first deficit after two quarters all season — will be beneficial as the Golden Eagles continue their quest for a third state championship.
“It was great for our guys to respond the way they did and to get rolling in the second half,” said Kramer, whose team outscored the Wolfpack 28-0 in the final two quarters. “It breeds confidence and a sense of calm.”