Patriots Ready for 'Amazing Atmosphere'
Familiarity Breeds Respect
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In a way, two different worlds collide when Pinecrest and Barron Collier of Naples, Fla., meet tonight in an endowment game at the John Williams Athletic Complex.
But in spite of the 750 miles that separate them, the two football teams and their head coaches are far from strangers to each other.
The Patriots, led by Chris Metzger, take a 2-1 record into the 7:30 p.m. kickoff against the 1-0 Cougars coached by former Appalachian State player Mike Ivey.
Steve Pollard, a three-year starter at center for the Patriots, remembers playing against the Florida school at a team camp held at Appalachian State three years ago.
“It’s going to be an amazing atmosphere,” he said before practice early Thursday morning. “I can’t wait to see all the fans from Florida in here. It’s going to be a big clash between states.”
Barron Collier is a crosstown rival of the Lely team that Metzger coached for four years before coming to Pinecrest in 2007. The last two games between the teams while Metzger was there were split by one-point margins.
Ivey, who didn’t take over at Barron Collier until 2008, was on the opposite side of the field as the coach at Cypress Lake in 2004 in Metzger’s first game at Lely.
“I think more important is that it’s a goodwill game,” Metzger said. “We’re going to have a pre-game meal with them on Thursday and fellowship, but obviously for 48 minutes there are going to be a lot of bodies flying around.”
The Cougar squad left Naples by bus late Wednesday afternoon and arrived here early Thursday morning. By 11 a.m. they were at the Pinecrest field house watching film before holding a practice in the afternoon.
Both teams employ similar 3-4 defenses. Both have so far rushed the ball very well and thrown sparingly.
The Patriots piled up 457 yards on the ground in last week’s 40-8 trouncing of Cox Mill. Senior quarterback Travis Scales has rushed for 345 yards on 60 carries and scored seven touchdowns in three games. He has also completed 17 of 28 passes for 252 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Junior running back Dwayne Simpson has gained 300 yards on 27 attempts with four TDs.
Metzger recalled having as many as 75 college coaches visit him one year while he was at Lely in a state considered to be one of the hotbeds of college recruiting. Barron Collier, a school with an enrollment of about 1,800, boasts a number of Division 1 caliber recruits.
The Cougars ran for 470 yards in last Friday’s 36-6 win over Miami-Braddock. Isaac Fuller, a 5-foot-6, 150-pound running back, rushed for 240 yards on 18 carries. Quarterback Justin Black, 6-2, 215, picked up 78 yards on 13 attempts and completed three passes for 37 more. They also have a talented receiving corps led by 6-4, 210-pound junior tight end Mike Heuerman.
Patriot defensive coordinator Jason Sparks and Metzger, the offensive coordinator, are impressed with the discipline of the Cougars on both sides of the ball.
“I don’t want to use the word simple in a negative way,” Sparks said, “but their simplicity is their strength. They’re good at what they do and they don’t shy away from it. They’re not going to try to out-trick you.
“As a defense you try to take someone out of their game and make them do something they’re not good at. But they’re going to stick with their game and make it work.”
Even though the Cougars didn’t fully unveil their passing game in the opener, Sparks knows the capability is there. Black, a transfer from Port Huron, Mich., passed for 1,168 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior there.
“I really felt when I came to Florida that it was God putting me there so I was at peace about it,” Black said of the cross-country move. “Just physically, the heat was the big aspect, but your body quickly adapts to it.
“I think this is really a unique opportunity to kind of represent Florida. I think it will be a good game.”
Inside linebackers Jake Berman, 6-0, 225, and Conner Reynolds, 6-1, 215, are a couple of the Cougar players the Patriot offense will have to deal with.
“I see a team that looks similar to Fuquay-Varina,” Metzger said, recalling the team that defeated the Patriots 41-7 in the second round of the 2009 state playoffs. “It’s 11 guys running to the football — very disciplined. It’s a real football culture at that school.”
Ivey, who is from Martinsville, Va., played on an Appalachian State team that went 11-0 when he was a senior. He looks for four great quarters of football.
“Obviously, the quarterback is the one that makes them go,” he said. “But, what’s really scary is you’re looking at a college-size and college talent-level offensive line. Defensively, it’s the same way. Their guys up front are very strong and very physical. I think this thing is going to be a real battle in the trenches.”
Both coaches will use the game to get ready for the conference battles later on.
“It’s pretty neat and I think it should be fun for the kids from both schools,” Ivey said. “One team is going to have a little bragging rights when it’s all over Friday night.”
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