Lely hired Maurice Belser for his experience. Over his 19 years in coaching, Belser was a part of two district tiebreaker matchups where his teams came away with postseason berths.
That experience should serve him well Monday.
Belser and the Trojans face two rookie head coaches at Dunbar and Immokalee in a District 5A-12 tiebreaker at 7 p.m. Monday in Fort Myers where the top two teams extend their seasons at least one more game.
The three teams combined for 17 wins during the season, but none of that matters. Proving to be evenly matched, the Trojans, Indians and Tigers took turns beating each other this season to set up the tiebreaker where all that will matter is who plays the best Monday.
“In this situation, you eliminate all the other stuff. Nothing else matters – all of the stuff you’ve done before, all of your records,” Belser said. “All you have to do is focus and concentrate and do the things that need to be done against this one team for one quarter.”
Belser probably knows that better than anyone who’ll be on the field at Dunbar. He was an assistant on a 4-6 Gainesville P.K. Yonge team in 1997 that came away with a district title following a three-team tiebreaker. In 2004, he was the head coach at Tallahassee Rickards when the Raiders lost to Live Oak Suwannee during its first-quarter matchup but knocked off rival Tallahassee Godby to claim the district runner-up spot.
Lely was in the driver’s seat in 5A-12 when it came back to beat district favorite Dunbar, which reached a regional title game last year, 27-24 after trailing by double-digits early last month. The Trojans failed to take care of business of business Friday when it outgained Immokalee 442-291, but costly mistakes dealt the Trojans a 34-14 loss.
Belser wasn’t completely disappointed with having to play Monday because he understood had the ball bounced the wrong way a few times against Dunbar the Trojans postseason hopes would have been dashed.
“We didn’t go out and destroy Dunbar,” Belser said. “We got lucky. We had some calls go our way and they missed some plays. They’re a really good football team. Being in the driver’s seat from that point on we thought we had a good chance and that’s what that bought us. Had we not gotten lucky against them then we’d be done right now.”
Immokalee’s 41-26 loss to Dunbar Oct. 21 was the other piece of the puzzle that set up the tiebreaker where the Indians will face Lely in a 12-minute first quarter. The winner of that will face top seed Dunbar, which was awarded based on the Tiger’s district-best 7-2 regular season record.
If Dunbar wins, it will be the district champion, which comes with a home playoff game, and the winner of Lely-Immokalee will be the district runner-up. Should the winner of Lely-Immokalee beat Dunbar, it will be the district champ and the Tigers will face the loser of the first quarter for runner-up honors.
“We know them and they know us,” Belser said of Immokalee. “It’s not going to be a scheme thing that wins the ball game. It’s going to be who does the most things right and plays with the most intensity.”
Since losing to Lely and Lee County champion South Fort Myers in back-to-back games last month, Dunbar is playing its best football of the season during its four-game winning streak. The Tigers have scored no less than 35 points in each win during the streak and the defense continues dominate, giving up just 11.3 points per game this season.
However, in a 12-minute game situation the Dunbar offense can’t be too patient in trying to score points. During the season the team relied on running backs Lajuan Preston and Keanu Young, who’ve combined for nearly 1,500 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns, to carry it down the field.
While controlling the ball and moving the chains may be a winning formula for the team who receives the opening kickoff, Dunbar may need to have more of a sense of urgency if it doesn’t get the opening kickoff. That will put more pressure on junior quarterback Jairus Johnson to get the ball in the hands of its big playmakers on the outside in receivers Shocky Jacques-Louis and Seneca Milledge.
The tiebreaker system seems to favor teams that can score quickly and in bunches like Lely and Immokalee.
For the Trojans, a hot night from junior dual-threat quarterback Jacquez Carter, who has accounted for 2,156 total yards and 25 touchdowns, will more than likely punch the team’s ticket to the playoffs.
“You know as well as I do the kids have to be willing to do what they’re instructed to do and execute,” Belser said.
First-year Immokalee coach Rodelin Anthony was involved in a three-team tiebreaker as a player in 2003 when the Indians finished as a runner-up after it beat Lemon Bay and lost to Barron Collier.
“Geez, I really wish there was a secret formula. I wish there was a secret strategy for those things,” Anthony said. “It’s pretty much just football, football in 12 minutes, 12 minutes for one game. You need to keep the momentum on your side.”
The Indians should rely heavily on junior running back Fred Green (887 yards rushing, 16 TDs) as the Indians will more than likely start freshman quarterback RJ Rosales while starter Nathaniel Betancourt recovers from a concussion sustained against Dunbar.
At times the varsity game has moved too fast for Rosales. However, the quick signal caller has shown ability to make plays outside the pocket.
The big question for the Indians will be whether senior middle linebacker Joel Marcano and the defense will be able to hold up after giving up 22.7 points per game this season.
“We have to tackle and create turnovers,” Anthony said. “You have to be instinctive, you have to be a physical ball club.”