Two Collier County football programs have embraced a national trend in scheduling out-of-state, marquee matchups for 2013.
The regular season kicks off tonight across Southwest Florida, with Olney (Md.) Our Lady of Good Counsel facing the Immokalee Indians at Gary Bates Stadium in Immokalee. Good Counsel began the season ranked No. 19 in USA Today’s Super 25.
On Friday, Sept. 27, Naples High plays host to Centerville (Ohio), a program that went 6-4 last season and hasn’t had a losing record in at least 10 years.
“I think it’s great for the program,” new Immokalee coach Rich Dombroski said of the matchup against Good Counsel. “They’re an out of the state program. They were nationally ranked. They’re a great opponent for week one. We’re going to see what we’re lacking. They are a very large football team. Their offensive and defensive lines are huge.”
The out-of-state matchups against prominent programs generate buzz, with FoxSportsFlorida.com live-streaming tonight’s Immokalee game on its Web site.
“They were looking for a game in week one,” Immokalee athletic director Tony Allen said of Good Counsel. “We were looking for a game in week one. We worked out the details, and it’s going to be a great opportunity for us and them. They have been nationally ranked fairly consistency. They have several kids who have been Division I over the years.
“We started the conversation. They’re familiar with the area. It just opened up a door for us. We definitely want to take advantage of it.
“We’ll get some national exposure.”
Allen said a portion of the gate receipts will be given back to Good Counsel, which arrived to Fort Myers on Wednesday afternoon and practiced at Bishop Verot High School that evening and again Thursday morning while commuting from a Fort Myers Beach hotel.
Good Counsel, a private school with an annual tuition rate of about $18,000, had a group of parents organize fundraising for the trip, which meant air transportation for 55 players and 15 coaches and other personnel.
At Naples High, athletic director Ernie Modugno said the Golden Eagles had a successful matchup against Greenwhich (Conn.) High in 2007, and another such opportunity against the Ohio team came about this year.
“We have some people from Centerville who are Naples High School fans,” Modugno said. “They retired here, and they used to live in Centerville. They have been following Naples High football. Their children still live in Centerville and in fact their grandkids are in the high school there.
“They thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we could put a game together between the two schools?’ So they’re the ones who got the ball rolling.”
Lee County football programs have yet to be a part of this trend, but Fort Myers coach Sam Sirianni Jr. said he was well aware of it.
“We had a chance to so something at Disney World a couple of years ago,” Sirianni said, referring to Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista. “We weighed the pros and cons, and it hasn’t fit in with what we’re doing.
“I don’t want to say never, but right now, we have so many natural rivalries and things with our schedule, we want to be careful. It would be something that I would listen to if the time was right. There are more high school games between powerhouses now. People are intrigued by it.”
As for the first of these cross-state matchups, it appears to be a battle of Good Counsel’s size against Immokalee’s speed.
Good Counsel has a 6-foot-4, 290-pound senior left tackle named Sam Mustipher, who committed to Notre Dame.
Immokalee has an abundance of speed in Division I recruit tailback D’Ernest Johnson and wide receiver/cornerback J.C. Jackson, who verbally committed to the University of Florida.