For the old guard of Southwest Florida football coaches like Fort Myers’ Sam Sirianni and Cape Coral’s Larry Gary, who have more than 60 combined years of experience in the area, having a preseason game canceled by weather comes with the territory.
On one hand the two coaches didn’t get to see if their respective teams are in game shape before their openers next week because the Fort Myers at Cape Coral clash was canceled due to severe weather in the area Friday. On the other, the Green Wave and Seahawks came away with no injuries.
The other Lee County games that weren’t concluded were Lemon Bay-East Lee County, Mariner-Evangelical Christian, Largo-South Fort Myers, Sarasota Out of Door Academy-Southwest Florida Christian Academy and Cypress Lake-Riverdale.
In total, seven games in Lee and Collier counties were canceled and will not be made up.
At Cape Coral, the decision came around 9 p.m. after the game was supposed to kick off at 7 p.m. The teams took the field around 8 p.m. but were called off it just before kickoff when the lightning horn sounded.
“I believe there’s a time where you’ve got to look at the big picture and now’s that time,” Sirianni said as his team boarded its bus. “I just don’t believe you’re going to get much out of it at the risk of sitting around for a few hours.”
Cape Coral is looking to rebound from its worst season in 13 years when it finished 2-8 in 2015.
“We both needed a pre-test,” Gary said. “Fort Myers is a good team to go through that test. The kids wanted it. It’s just out of our control.”
Sirianni has dealt with this situation before. In 2014, the Green Wave had its classic game canceled before even playing a down. The team went on to rip off 12 straight wins, something Sirianni hopes is a good omen.
Fort Myers opens at Palmetto next week.
“Not getting out tonight, you get those first-night anxieties and a lot of emotion that built up out of the way,” Sirianni said. “Now that comes into play next when you’re playing a four-quarter game (in Week 1) and you’re not going to sub as frequently. As a coach, I worry more about that. You never know you’re in game shape until you really get into it.”
At about 8:30 p.m. South Fort Myers athletic director Don Payne started informing fans its game with Largo would be canceled.
“We left it up to Largo,” he said. “We were willing to wait until 10, 10:30 p.m. to play but they had a three-hour ride home. We had hoped to get in a couple of quarters.”
Payne said lightning kept circling the area from 6:30-8:30 p.m., leading to a number of delays. “It seemed we’d be just about to finish one and then we’d get another,” he said.
South coach Matthew Holderfield said his team dealt with lightning delays all week during practice. “Then we don’t get one in the afternoon today but then it comes before our game,” he said.
Those weren’t the only storm clouds circling around the school this week. Earlier this week, coach Anthony Dixon was fired. Despite that, Holderfield said the players had pretty good focus during the week.
“This is adversity and kids will run into it throughout their lives,” he said. “We would’ve liked to have played, though. I was ready. The players were ready. It would’ve made things kind of normal.”
Holderfield said the two talked during the week, mainly because he wanted to see how Dixon was doing.
“Anthony is a good man, a good man,” he said. “We’re always going to be family.”
SFCA scored on its first drive of its game on a Chase Reed 4-yard pass to receiver Drew Davidson with 6:44 in the first quarter. Lightning ended the game a few minutes later.
“The kids are upset, but we have to look out for safety’s sake,” SFCA coach Mike Marciano said.
“We got some decent things on film. We saw that our kids will come out and hit, we definitely saw that. The other coach complimented us on our physicality. We need to eliminate penalties, that would have stopped their drives quickly. The one drive we had, we finished. That’s impressive. I think our defensive line is going to be the strong point of our team and that’s always positive.”
At Riverdale’s Karl Engel Field, the Raiders and the Cypress Lake Panthers played all but 80 seconds of a scoreless first quarter, from 8:11 to 8:35 p.m., when the lightning meter went off again.
The Panthers gained just one yard of offense in 10 plays, while the Raiders gained 26 yards in 16 plays, which, both coaches said, was better than nothing.
“I’m glad that we got in what we did,” said first-year Cypress Lake coach Richie Rode, whose team stopped Riverdale on a fourth-and-goal. “That was great for us, to go out there and get a goal-line stand, that was really uplifting for the team.”
Cypress Lake plays at North Port on Friday, while Riverdale plays at home against North Fort Myers.
“It was nice to get on the field again,” said Riverdale running back Zachary Sanders, who gained 27 yards on seven carries.