NAPLES -- Naples Lely's big wins are no longer a surprise, and its 28-7 spring game victory over Lakewood Ranch on Friday is evidence of the football team's resurgence.
The Lely Trojans concluded the 2013 season with their first playoff appearance in four years, and the Trojans are working on building on last season's success this spring.
"This team has a different identity from last year," Trojans coach Culmer St. Jean said. "They are taking on the challenge of how great they did last year at the end of the season, and they want to start fresh that way."
The Trojans concluded their 2013 campaign by winning four of their last five games -- the only loss during that period came was a 21-14 squeaker against Immokalee.
Lely running back Tupac Isme stole the show with 189 rushing yards on 13 carries and three touchdowns on Friday. His impressive day started early. Isme drove home an 80-yard touchdown run on the first play of the game from scrimmage.
"There's nothing I can say about it," the soon-to-be senior running back said. "I touched the rock, and I wanted to take it."
The running back followed up with a 43-yard touchdown run near the end of the first quarter, and a goal-line touchdown run in the second quarter.
Lakewood Ranch couldn't find the offensive or defensive rhythm Lely displayed throughout the contest.
"I knew we were going to struggle on defense. We had six starters out, so that caused us problems," Lakewood Ranch coach Shawn Trent said. "Offensively, it took us a little while to get
into rhythm. We just never seemed like we could click all the time. We had stupid stuff that would happen, so we would shoot ourselves in the foot a little bit."
Lely is known for running the ball, but a question mark remained at the quarterback position as the team lost last year's starter, Karbiel Dirogene, to graduation.
However, they found their man in Lik Estillen, who played tight end last season, during spring ball.
The junior-to-be went 4-for-5 and threw for 23 yards; he also rushed for 31 yards. However, his day had more flair to it than the stats showed. Estillen had a 44-yard pass to Rodney Charelus and a 29-yard screen pass to Isme called back due to penalties.
"He's young, but he conducted himself well," St. Jean said. "He made the right reads on the runs, and he made the right plays on the pass. Overall, he did a great job."
Lely's defense also showed off the swagger it established during the offseason. The relentless Trojans' front seven held Lakewood Ranch's rushing attack to minimal gains, and Lely defensive back Marvin Liberiste had an interception.
"The defense did well, but we have a lot of things to work on for both sides of the ball," St. Jean said. "We're just scratching the surface right now. We have a long summer, and we're going to get after it."