The pre-made region championship and Final Four-bound signs were ready to go and parents were eager to snap photos with their iPhones following Naples High’s dominant 35-0 win over Charlotte in the Region 6A-3 final Friday.
But, before the celebration could begin, Golden Eagles coach Bill Kramer had a simple message about the team’s state semifinal matchup at powerhouse Miami Central.
“Next week, it gets real,” he said with an authoritative tone.
He wasn’t trying to be a buzzkill, just honest.
“That’s my way of saying if we’re not in the right mindset, they’ll knock our teeth out of our head,” he added.
Naples certainly entered what most thought to be its biggest challenge of the season thus far with the proper mindset. The Golden Eagles made one of the state’s 11 remaining undefeated teams look quite pedestrian as they rolled up 400 yards of offense and shut out a Charlotte offense that entered the game scoring 42 points a game.
It was a battle that was won up front on both sides of the ball.
Tarpons standout quarterback Brennan Simms never looked comfortable in the pocket as he was forced to scramble on most downs. The all-state candidate who completed 65 percent of his passes, managing just 50 yards through the air until Charlotte’s last possession.
Meanwhile, the Naples offensive line was instrumental in quarterback Kieran DiGiorno’s three-touchdown night as well as opening up wide running lanes for running backs Carlin Fils-aime and Antonio Carbonaro in crucial spots.
Yet, on Saturday, players were back in the film room at 9 a.m. listening to coaches pointing out mistakes in what appeared to be a flawless performance.
Central, which scored 27 unanswered points in the second half to knock off Daytona Beach Mainland 33-21 Friday, won’t be as forgiving of even the smallest of mistakes. The Rockets have been to five straight state championship games and won four of them.
They’ll look to become the third team alongside Belle Glade Glades Day and Pahokee to reach a sixth consecutive final.
The game will be a rematch of a 2012 semifinal where Central had a second-half surge behind running backs Dalvin Cook and Joseph Yearby to eliminate undefeated Naples 48-33 at Staver Field.
By Saturday morning the celebration was over for Naples, knowing the test in front of it required the Eagles to leave it in the past.
“Unlike (Friday’s) game, it’s going to be a four-quarter matchup,” senior linebacker Robert Green said. “We can’t stop. We have to put the pedal to the metal all four quarters. We can’t give up.”