Naples' Ar'quel Smith, center right, races in to scoop up the football after teammate Brady Webre, left, blocked a Barron Collier field goal try during Friday night's game at Barron Collier High School. GREGG HARDY/CSI
Barron Collier High School coach Mark Jackson didn’t see the play. He didn’t need to … he heard the sound.
It’s a sound many opposing coaches hear when facing the Naples Golden Eagles.
A blocked punt by Matt Hamel set off a chain reaction in the third quarter of Friday night’s game at Barron Collier High School. It allowed Naples to turn a suddenly tense 14-7 lead into a comfortable 21-point cushion. The Eagles went on to win (for the 21st time in this series, dating back to 1999), 49-14, to improve to 6-0 overall and 2-0 in Class 6A-District 14. Barron Collier fell to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in 6A-14.
Naples’ third-quarter touchdown trifecta came in a span of two and a half minutes. Here’s how it went down:
• Hamel blocks the punt with 5:26 left in the third. A minute and a half later, Dominiq Ponder fits the ball into tight coverage and finds tight end Dominic Mammarelli for a 17-yard touchdown.
• On the ensuing kickoff, Nick Herber delivers a perfect pooch kick that Naples recovers. CJ Dietzel scores on a 38-yard run eight seconds after Mammarelli’s touchdown.
• Brady Webre blocks a Barron field goal attempt, and Ar’quel Smith goes 70-plus yards on a scoop and score. Naples 35-7 with 1:24 left in the third quarter.
Throw in a second-quarter defensive touchdown by the Golden Eagles — Phadley Petigny scored on a fumble recovery near the Barron goal line — and it was a maddening night for Jackson and his Cougars.
“Here’s what the deal was: If we don’t give up a freaking defensive touchdown and two special teams touchdowns, we’re in the game,” said Jackson, whose team was in position to erase a 14-0 halftime deficit thanks to quarterback Jason Grimes’ 49-yard touchdown run and a huge fourth-and-1 stop by the Cougars defense.
“You want to play against a good team, you can’t give up things like that,” Jackson said.
Naples coach Bill Kramer said the third-quarter flurry was simply the result of his players tightening things up after halftime.
“The truth is, in the first half, if we don’t have four holding penalties … we were kind of moving the ball at will, and (Barron Collier) didn’t have much going on,” said Kramer, who’s 21-1 against the Cougars since arriving at Naples High in 1998. “… We felt like we could do what we wanted to do as long as we cleaned it up. That’s all our halftime conversation was about: better attention to detail and avoiding penalties. The rest is just execution. Our guys really played fast and played hard.”
Webre wasn’t just a menace on special teams. Also in the third quarter, he delivered a jarring hit to break up a sure Cougars completion. (Not long after that, another Naples defender sent a Cougars ballcarrier into the chairs on the Barron sideline.)
“We take pride in having a good second half,” Webre said. “We work hard during practice, so we come out strong in the first half, and then … it just shows in the second half because we’re not gassed. You know, we’re going as hard as we can, and it’s just more plays for us.”
Kramer loved Herber’s pooch kick and credited Naples special teams coordinator Ron Byington for making the call. Kramer said Byington wanted to try it in the first half.
Herber was pretty modest about the play. (His kick traveled less than 30 yards in the air, and after a Barron Collier player overran the backwards bounce, a Naples teammate dove on the ball.)
“I just put the ball up in the air, and the team does the rest of the work. … I just put it in the right spot,” said Herber, who triggered Naples’ undefeated start to the season with a last-second, game-winning field goal in the season opener at Riverview.
Asked if it’s safe to call his kicker a weapon, Kramer said, “Oh, no doubt.”
Kramer didn’t know who blocked the Cougars’ field goal try. When told it was Webre, he responded: “Brady again … again!” … Elan Sommala ran for 180 yards and a touchdown, giving him an 802/7 line through six games. … Naples didn’t ask a lot from Ponder, its first-year starting quarterback, who went 2 of 6 on the night. However, his two completions were pinpoint touchdown strikes: the one to Mammarelli on a short post; and a 40-yarder at the end of the first quarter to Dustin McGill on a wheel route. It was the first of two TDs for McGill, who closed the scoring with a 34-yard run in the fourth quarter. … The Cougars’ second touchdown also came on a long run — this one a 79-yarder by Drew Powell. … Barron Collier was without one of its main offensive weapons, as Deshaun Duverge was sidelined due to an apparent injury.
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