It was back to the future. I loaded my laptop into my computer bag with pens, a notebook and a stat sheet for a night of high school football in Naples. I was tasked with covering an exhibition game between Hialeah and Naples High School, a perennial powerhouse in Southwest Florida. I was working as a hired gun for the Fort Myers News-Press, a thankless job that I last did in 2009.
For very little pay I get to watch what usually turns out to be some very bad high school football. Fortunately, Naples has a very good team and Hialeah, though poorly coached, had a handful of Division I talent. I was rusty from the get go. The high school game moves fast and you have to keep careful track of where the ball is, who carries or catches it, or who makes the big tackle, fumble recovery or interception and again, the exact yard line. There's no instant replay to act as a back up. You've got to pay attention.
High school football has really changed in one way since I attended my first game way back in 1965. You see a lot more spread offenses. But by and large at the high school level, running the ball is the name of the game. It's kind of refreshing from the pass happy college game and NFL. The other thing is you can clearly spot the truly talented player at this level. They stick out like a sore thumb.
Naples has two or three really, really good players. They manhandled Hialeah, which had many more talented players. But Naples coach Bill Kramer runs a very tight ship. His teams are methodical. The offense executes its power veer with precision and his defense always swarms the field.
I've got another dozen or so Friday nights devoted to covering the area preps. No doubt the local rag will send me to some destitute spot in the middle of south Florida. But it's extra money in my bank account that counts. Maybe I'll get to see a future star that will get a chance to show his skills on Sunday. But I'll be satisfied if I get to see a few more teams like Naples this season. Great coaching beats talent almost every time at the high school level.