Hurricane Ian: Collier County football teams back on field, Canterbury only Lee Co. team

Editor's note: The game between Canterbury and Community School of Naples will not be played on Friday as the community recovers from Hurricane Ian.

Collier County football teams returned to the field Tuesday morning for their first practice since Hurricane Ian slammed the area last Wednesday with the goal of having teams play games Friday night.

While coaches and players seemed relieved to get back, there were questions about whether the return to normalcy was a little quick.

Naples High started preparing for a showdown with in-county rival Barron Collier which will be played at 7:30 p.m.

"I think the most sobering thing we've seen, I mean, we pulled them up to talk to them and we'd have helicopters flying overhead going to help people," said Barron Collier head coach Mark Jackson. "You see that and I just said, 'Well that's a little bit of a dose of reality right here.'"

"This is a district game for us, this is a big game," said Naples head coach Rick Martin. "So regardless of the hurricane, and it's not that we want to be insensitive to that or that we want to forget about it. But now that it's here and now that we know we have to play on Friday, we've got to get locked in and know that we have an undefeated district opponent coming to Staver Field."

Tuesday live updates: Restoring power to SWFL a "24-hour operation"; High school football back

Back to school: All Collier County Schools able to reopen Thursday after Hurricane Ian

Although excited about such a big district matchup against a big rival, Martin is aware of the effects of such a quick turnaround.

“I think it’s what you expect, they're mentally exhausted from it all,” Martin said. “They’re all so young, so they don’t really know. They probably see their parents maybe without answers, so that probably worried them.”

The return to normalcy is welcomed by players, despite the toll this storm has had. Junior offensive lineman Sam Kelley faced the devastating storm surge that flooded Naples but is grateful to be able to come back to football.

“My stepfather, my brother, and I were downstairs until the water was at our chest just trying to bring stuff upstairs,” Kelley said. “For me, football has always been a way to release those emotions. So being able to get out here and get after it as much as we can has helped me hone in on what’s going on here instead of what’s going on at home.”

Naples football player Cedric Small returned to practice on Oct. 4 after Hurricane Ian devastated Southwest Florida on September 28. Small's house was flooded and he lost his bed.
Naples football player Cedric Small returned to practice on Oct. 4 after Hurricane Ian devastated Southwest Florida on September 28. Small's house was flooded and he lost his bed.

“It’s kinda harder,” said junior offensive lineman Cedric Small. “Because I know coming back to a house is something on my main priority.”

Small’s family also took on heavy flooding that damaged most of their furniture.

“I also lost my bed, so I’m sleeping on the couch at the moment,” he said.

The return to practice has helped keep young athletes focused on something other than the destruction Hurricane Ian left behind. However, the mental toll is not lost on coaches.

"In terms of having our kids ready to play physically, I don't worry about that," said Immokalee head coach James Delgado. "I worry more about the mental part of it, honestly. But I think our kids are up to the task, I think our coaches are up to the task. "

"Everybody's in their own world obviously, so you don't know until you know," said Gulf Coast head coach Todd Nichols. "But by the same token, the quicker you can get back into a routine, the better off they are."

Collier schools are back in session Thursday, which the coaches believe will also help.

"Getting them back in school, getting them back in the weight room, getting them back on the practice field and provide a little bit of normalcy for them is going to help them mentally recover from what they've just been through," Jackson said.

Golden Gate has the quickest turnaround of any Southwest Florida team, as they will travel to Bradenton to face IMG Academy Blue on Thursday night. Combined with last week's bye, the Titans have had two weeks off.

Head Coach Nick Bigica is one of the many Collier coaches who values the structure football brings, especially now.

"I actually went to battle for kids in the district," Bigica said. "They were very open to listen to me and our concerns, because my thing is I want to get our kids back to normalcy. Getting back to practice isn't just normalcy. They want to get back to playing and get back to what it feels like again, and this will help them a little bit."

The Canterbury School football team sought a little normalcy Tuesday morning, returning to the football field for the first time since Hurricane Ian last Wednesday.

A little more than 20 players showed up as the Cougars are preparing to play the Community School of Naples on Friday night.

The Cougars were the only Lee County school to take the field Tuesday and most likely will be the only one to play a game this week. No Lee County Public School teams will be back in action, and the county's three other private schools were not ready to return.

“You know, in the grand scheme of things, it's a game. You know, it's a game, it's not life or death," Canterbury coach Stacy Sizemore said. “It's a game and we want to kind of approach it that way, just because you never know. We could be, you know, not able to play and our kids are sitting there like some other schools that are less fortunate and they can't play, you know, they can't come back together. So we want to appreciate what we are able to do still and just have some fun.”

The Canterbury football team practiced on Tuesday morning in preparation for playing Community School of Naples on Friday.
The Canterbury football team practiced on Tuesday morning in preparation for playing Community School of Naples on Friday.

Canterbury had around 100 students plus faculty and parents our clearing the campus Monday, including the field which looked as good as ever Tuesday morning.

"It was a mess," senior quarterback Alex Camarca said. "It was nice to see everyone together and it really shows what Canterbury is all about. It's more about helping the community and each other first rather than sports, that comes second. It's nice to see everyone out here."

Added senior Hunter Thomas, "Honestly, we are just a big family out here and it really showed yesterday."

Gateway Charter coach Ben Daley said he held a BBQ at the school just to get his players together on Monday and 15 of 30 showed up.

Daley is hoping to practice this week while the school remains closed and to play a game or two if possible next week. He's been in contact with Bradenton St. Stephen's and Oasis.

"It's just tough to tell right now what we'll be able to do," Daley said.

This week's schedule

What we know so far

Thursday

Golden Gate at IMG Blue, 7 p.m.

Friday

Okeechobee at Immokalee, 7 p.m.

Somerset at St. John Neumann

CSN at Canterbury

Barron Collier at Naples, 7:30 p.m.

Palmetto Ridge at Gulf Coast, 7 p.m.

Off

First Baptist, Lely, Marco Island

This article originally appeared on Naples Daily News: Collier County, Canterbury School football teams retake field after Ian