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North completes perfect regular season

November 1, 2017
By CHUCK BALLARO (news@breezenewspapers.com) , North Fort Myers Neighbor

Four years ago, head coach Earnest Graham took over a North Fort Myers High School football program that was clearly in the doldrums.

Changing the culture wasn't easy. He went through a few tough seasons (and nearly left the program) as the team committed mistake after mistake.

Slowly, those mistakes became fewer, the wins started coming, and there was light at the end of the tunnel - the Red Knights' first district title and playoff berth in a decade.

Article Photos

North Fort Myers senior Fa’Najae Gotay (5) ran for two touchdowns in Friday night's 41-0 win against Cape Coral. To view more photos from the game, see our Facebook page.

MICHAEL PISTELLA

mpistella@breezenewspapers.com

That light shone Friday in their regular season finale against Cape Coral on senior night, when North capped a perfect 9-0 regular season with a 41-0 victory.

Perhaps most impressive is that North did it through the air, almost entirely ignoring the running game until they were close to the goal line. Toby Noland threw for 288 yards and three scores, all to junior Clayton Savinsky, whose three catches went for 185 yards.

Fa'Najae Gotay had two short scoring runs and Cameron Howitt was the hero on defense with two interceptions.

While some might put an asterisk on their record by virtue of a cancelled game with Mariner, perfect is perfect, no matter how many games it took.

"You have what you have on your plate and you respond to it. Everybody we faced we beat," Graham said. "Our kids bought in. It's been a culture change that's happened in the program. The JV team was undefeated, the freshmen lost one game. The kids are putting out the effort they need."

The victory was special for Noland, who toiled through a 3-7 season at Ida Baker last season before coming to North.

"This year has been crazy. I'm not used to not playing in the second half. It's been amazing. We're going to go far in the playoffs, that's for sure."

Cape Coral (3-5, 2-3) looked sharp on its first drive, driving all the way to the North 5-yard line before having a Cooper Stone 22-yard field goal attempt blocked.

It took North one play to cash in, as Noland threw a short pass over the middle to Savinsky, who found a hole in the defense and raced 86 yards for a 6-0 lead after the missed extra point.

Another scoring opportunity for the Red Knights resulted in a missed field goal, but soon after, the floodgates opened. Noland and Savinsky connected again on the first play of the second quarter to make it 13-0, and after a Cameron Howitt interception, Noland ran it in on a quarterback draw to make it 20-0.

Fa'Najae Gotay ran one in later in the second quarter then, after a fumbled snap on a punt, to make it 34-0.

Just before halftime, Howitt had his second interception, which immediately led to Savinsky's third touchdown reception from 70 yards to make it 41-0 at the half and force a running clock for the remainder of the game.

"Everything really took off in all three phases of the game and we've been waiting for an offensive output like what we had tonight," Graham said. "We did a great job getting the ball out. Cape does a lot of things to create pressure. We handled it well and we'll have to handle it well in the playoffs."

"We knew they were going to blitz a lot. They had nothing to lose playing for the run. We just threw a lot of run-pass options," Noland said. "They double-teamed Joe Wilkins and that opened it up for others."

"We've always been capable of throwing. The chemistry is coming together. There's no better time to unleash it. We did a great job distributing the ball," Graham said.

NORTH FORT MYERS 41, CAPE CORAL 0

Cape Coral 0 0 0 0 0

North Fort Myers 6 35 0 0 0

First quarter

NFM Clayton Savinski 86 pass from Toby Noland (kick fail), 7:48.

Second quarter

NFM Savinsky 29 pass from Noland (Ethan Bennett kick), 11:51.

NFM Noland 5 run (Bennett kick), 10:16.

NFM Fa'Najae Gotay 1 run (Bennett kick), 4:24.

NFM Gotay 1 run (Bennett kick), 3:17.

NFM Savinsky 70 pass from Noland (Bennett kick), :34.

 
 

 

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