NEW COACHING MATCHUPS
Four of Collier County’s 10 high school football teams will have new coaches next season. Here are the games that will feature two new coaches going head-to-head:
■ Palmetto Ridge at Gulf Coast, Sept. 7
■ Lely at Barron Collier, Sept. 28
■ Lely at Gulf Coast, Oct. 7
■ Lely at Palmetto Ridge, Oct. 26
■ Palmetto Ridge at Barron Collier, Nov. 2
■ Gulf Coast at Barron Collier, Nov. 9
NAPLES — The games might be the same next high school football season, but there will be plenty of changes on the sidelines.
Schools normally agree to two-year contracts when scheduling football games. This season will be the second of that two-year cycle for most local schools, so when the regular season kicks off Aug. 31 those teams will face a majority of the same opponents as last year.
While the teams on the field will be the same, many games will feature head coaches who are new to Collier County. Four of the county’s 10 varsity football teams — Barron Collier, Gulf Coast, Lely and Palmetto Ridge — went through coaching changes this offseason.
“I don’t think anyone knows what to expect this year,” said Pete Fominaya, who took over at his alma mater, Gulf Coast, this winter. “There are a lot of new faces, so it’s going to be different.”
Six games in Collier County next season will feature new head coaches going head to head. Even the traditional crosstown matchups — like the 39th Coconut Bowl between Naples and Lely on Nov. 2 — will have new looks as established programs adjust to new offenses and styles brought in by new coaches.
As area teams change under new leadership, that means opposing coaches will be forced to do more homework to prepare.
“When you game plan (for local teams) normally you have an idea that this team has this style of offense or defense,” Immokalee coach Jerrod Ackley said. “With all these new guys, you don’t know what you’re going to get. You’ll have to spend extra time in the film room because you don’t have a preconceived notion of what teams will be like.”
All four new coaches have Collier County roots, so they won’t come into their local rivalries completely unprepared.
Fominaya graduated from Gulf Coast in 2000 and went against most area teams as Lehigh’s head coach the past three seasons. Barron Collier’s Dan Pallante and Palmetto Ridge’s Ryan Mitchell were assistants with their teams for two seasons before being promoted. Stacey Stewart is a 1987 graduate of Lely, his new team, and son of Trojans basketball coaching legend Don Stewart.
Joining the new coaches will be Southwest Florida’s newest football team. Marco Island Academy will field a junior varsity team for the first time in the fall with hopes of becoming a varsity program in 2013.
The public charter high school has freshman and sophomore classes this year and will add a junior class in 2012-13. The football team has seven JV games scheduled and will be coached by former NFL kicker Mike Vanderjagt.
For all that’s new next season, the game of the year might come from the county’s oldest matchup. Naples and Immokalee, which played Collier’s first intracounty game in 1959, have had the biggest rivalry in town since the Golden Eagles became the first team in Southwest Florida to win a state title in 2001 and the Indians followed suit in 2004.
Immokalee beat Naples 39-28 at home last year in the regular season before both teams advanced to regional championship games. Both teams have several star players back this fall and face off Sept. 7 at Naples.
“It’s just such a good rivarly,” Ackley said. “In Week 2 that game is going to be a lot of fun. We know that will be a battle. It will be one of the traditional rivalries at its best.”
Naples lost two regular season games last year, and the Eagles get a chance for revenge against both teams at home this year. In addition to hosting the Indians, Naples also welcomes Venice on Nov. 9, the final week of the regular season.
“Immokalee is a dynamo,” said Bill Kramer, who will be in his 15th season at Naples. “We haven’t had a team since I’ve been in Southwest Florida with that many Division I commits. And Venice is Venice — they’re always good, big, strong and fast.”