Sammy Brown learned his lesson and is done scoreboard watching. It may not have hurt the Dunbar coach on the field last week, but it was a reminder never to take the focus off his team.
On the field following a 41-26 district win over Immokalee last week, Brown was told Cypress Lake took a lead on District 5A-12 frontrunner Lely with under 2 minutes to play. A Lely loss would have meant the Tigers had an outside chance at a district title and a first-round home playoff game.
Whatever satisfaction Brown got out of the information was short lived after Lely scored with 14 seconds remaining to beat Cypress Lake.
This week when Brown and Dunbar (6-2, 2-1), one of five Lee County teams seeking to clinch a playoff berth, travel to Mariner, he and his staff plan to tune out any score updates from the huge district game between Immokalee and Lely.
If the Tigers and Lely win, Dunbar secures the 5A-12 runner-up spot. Dunbar and Immokalee victories create a three-way tie and a tiebreaker game to be played Monday.
For Brown, there’s no point in getting bogged down by scenarios because the one constant is Dunbar needs to beat a team, which has nothing to lose and will probably empty its playbook, to extend its season.
“That didn’t fare very well for us,” Brown said of scoreboard watching. “We’re not doing that. We’re going to try to handle our business and everything else will fall into place. If we win our game, we’re in in some kind of way.”
It’s a position the preseason district favorite Tigers would have signed up for immediately following a shocking 27-24 loss to Lely last month. It was the beginning of a two-game losing streak and long bye week.
Since then Brown’s team has been dominant, posting two shutouts and overpowering Immokalee in a must-win game. Dunbar will look to put Friday’s game out of reach early and leave no questions in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve really been coming on strong,” Brown said. “That’s really the way you want to do it. You really want to start picking it up around district time.”
Lehigh and Bishop Verot’s postseason fates are more clear cut.
The Lightning (4-3, 1-1 District 6A-11) get a chance to avenge last season’s loss to Estero which kept them out of the playoffs. With a win, they’re in.
“We need to focus and prepare the right way,” Lehigh coach James Chaney said following a 45-13 win over East Lee County Oct. 14 that allowed the Lightning to control their own destiny. “We need to learn from our mistakes and take this thing seriously. Estero is a good team.”
An Estero win combined with a Fort Myers victory over East Lee creates a three-way tie for second place in the district.
Whether Verot coach Bill Shields likes it or not, the Vikings (5-4, 4-1 District 4A-6) will not only be playing to extend their season in a virtual play-in game against Lakeland Tenoroc, but they’ll be fighting to extend Shield’s coaching career at least one more game.
“It’s all about our kids and with me that’s never going to change,” said Shields, who is retiring at the end of the season following two successful stints with Verot. “It’s a great setup. Here we are in the 10th week and we have a chance at the playoffs. Our schedule the last two years has really worked out. Our kids know we win and we’re in. That’s pretty exciting.”
Last season Verot and Tenoroc battled in a 34-33 thriller in Lakeland. The Vikings overcame a 19-point deficit in a little under a half and the then tripped up Tenoroc’s Keyon Walters at the 10-yard line to secure the win.
“We expect the same thing this year,” Shields said. “They’re coming down here remembering what side they were on. That’s the only thing we really mentioned to our kids. They’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time. It’s up to us to be ready.”
Two county teams will be playing to hoist district championship hardware.
In a three-team District 7A-12, undefeated South Fort Myers (8-0, 1-0) travels to Gulf Coast playing its best football of the season.
The Wolfpack’s schedule the last two weeks created a few potential pitfalls they’ve weathered so far. Facing state powerhouse Naples last week, South ran the risk of looking ahead to a de facto district championship game with Gulf Coast and falling flat against the Golden Eagles.
Instead South unleashed several big plays to knock off state-ranked Naples 42-35, a rarity for a Lee County team in recent history.
“We really preached hard last week and we’re preaching hard this week really just try to take care of ourselves,” South interim coach Matt Holderfield said. “Obviously we schemed and prepared for both teams for what they do specifically, but we really focused a whole lot on taking care of ourselves, doing our job, tuning up what we do offensively, tuning up what we do defensively.”
Now, the Wolfpack faces a potential letdown situation coming off the big win. Gulf Coast (5-3, 1-0), viewed as a threat to South in the preseason, cleaned up its act since losing three of its first four games.
Holderfield views the Sharks as dangerous. He isn’t changing South’s approach, though.
“I told everybody last week we were going to have a workman’s mentality. I think people took at as we weren’t being emotional for Naples,” Holderfield said. “I think people would have liked to think we didn’t care about the Naples game. We took them serious, we took the whole thing seriously. We knew if we tried to pump them up last week or this week it would hurt us in one way or the other.”
In District 6A-11, Fort Myers (5-3, 2-0) hosts an upstart East Lee team, which has moved from cellar dweller to playoff hopeful this season, in search of a district crown.
“They’re 4-4 for a reason,” Fort Myers coach Sam Sirianni Jr. said. “They’re playing some good football offensively. They’re definitely a formidable opponent. They’re definitely not the same team they’ve been in past years.”
An East Lee win combined with a Lehigh loss would put the Jaguars in the postseason for the first time since 2010. A Jaguar win and a Lehigh win creates a three-team tiebreaker to be played on Monday.
Fort Myers entered the season with high expectations before a tough start to the schedule against three heavyweights got the best of it. Losses to Palmetto, South and undefeated Charlotte left a lot of room for improvement that the Green Wave has been displaying during their three-game winning streak.
“You can learn a lot about yourself in these tough ball games. Obviously you want to win them,” Sirianni said. “We feel that we lost to three good football teams, but we feel with a few things on our own end and a few things and breaks that we could be sitting with a couple more wins under our belt. Hopefully, we’ve learned from some of our self-inflicted wounds in games that were there for the taking where we didn’t do the things necessary to win.”
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