NAPLES VS. NAPLES LELY
THE NAPLES-LELY GAME, WHICH
from here on will be called by its real
name, the Coconut Bowl, was born on
Thanksgiving Day in 1974. That day, fans
got a belly full of turkey, and they also got
their fill of high school football at its finest.
The rivalry hasn’t skipped a beat in the
40 years since, with Naples leading the
overall series 26-15-0.
It all began when Lely High opened
during the 1974-75 school year, taking
many kids previously zoned for Naples High
School. Naples had played football since
the early 1950s and it would have seemed
it would have had a distinct advantage in
that first battle, but Lely won by nine points. Naples didn’t take
the loss well and proceeded to win nine of the next 10 games.
The Coconut Bowl is a good example of a community game
in which the older school split, creating a natural rivalry right
down the road. Naples is currently on a five-game winning
streak in the series.
“The Coconut Bowl is the kind of rivalry that attracts fans
MIAMI JACKSON VS. MIAMI NORTHWESTERN
that only go to one game a year, and this one is it,” said long-
time Naples head coach Bill Kramer, who has led the Golden
Eagles to two state championships and 14 district titles.
“You are guaranteed that no matter what you saw on video
from previous weeks, guys are going to play harder, faster
and be more physical than they have ever played before.”
In recent years, the winner’s trophy, which is a coconut
with football laces on it, has had its name changed to the Joe
Klimas Trophy, named after a broadcaster in Collier County
who saw the first 38 games in the rivalry. He died of cancer
in 2012 and the trophy was immediately renamed in his honor.
THERE ARE SEVERAL GAMES IN FLORIDA KNOWN AS A
“Soul Bowl,” but when fans statewide talk about the moniker,
they’re usually referring to the one in Miami when Northwestern and Jackson play. There is a ton of history to this
game, and even when one of the teams is a bit down it hardly
damages the reputation of Miami’s Soul Bowl.
Of course, one of the biggest reasons the game has
a statewide – if not national – reputation is because of
the 1998 game in the legendary Orange Bowl. That year,
Northwestern came in 9-0 and ranked No. 5 in the nation
by USA Today, while Jackson came in 7-1 and ranked right
behind Northwestern in all the state polls. It would also settle
the district championship, which added playoff implications.
Northwestern won the game, which was televised live in
Florida – a rarity at that time.
Oh, and 46,474 fans showed up for the game, one of the
largest high school crowds in national history.
This version of the Soul Bowl began in 1967 and within
two years had to be moved to the Orange Bowl to accommodate the fans. The original Miami Soul Bowl began in
the 1940s when black high school teams from Dorsey and
Booker T. Washington battled.
Northwestern opened in 1955 and replaced Dorsey in the
game, while Jackson opened in 1967 and replaced Booker
T. Washington, which became a junior high school before
coming back as a high school in 1999.
Last year, Jackson whooped up on Northwestern, a rarity
in recent years where the Bulls have won more games and
sent more talent to the collegiate level. It was the Generals’
first win over the Bulls since 2002, snapping a 10-game losing streak in the series. Northwestern leads all-time 32-13-0.
ARCADIA DESOTO VS. WAUCHULA HARDEE
DESOTO AND HARDEE BEGAN PLAYING WHEN HIGH
school teams routinely got to games via the railroad – and in
Florida, sometimes even by boat. They played through the Great
Depression, World War II, Woodstock and everything since then.
DeSoto-Hardee is the longest-running, continuous state
rivalry in Florida. Dating back to 1921, it edges out other
great longtime town-vs.-town rivalries that have played 90-
plus times like Palatka-St. Augustine, Avon Park-Sebring and
Kissimmee Osceola-St. Cloud, just to name a few.
Hardee, which has won 18 out of the last 21 games, leads
the overall series 58-31-5, but DeSoto won last year’s install-
ment by five points. The winner of the game takes home the
Walker F. Buck Carlton Trophy, a tradition that began in 1965.
Only 25 miles separate these Heartland area towns. They
once were part of the same county (Sarasota, then DeSoto),
and residents have talked for years about how you’d have to
show up two or three hours early just to get a seat for this game.
In a 1993 article in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, then
DeSoto quarterback Lew Provau was interviewed about
being a fourth-generation Bulldog football player. His great-grandfather Archie Tucker played on the 1923 team, his
grandfather Elbert Provau played in the 1940s and his father
Mike Provau played in the mid-1960s.
Lew spoke openly about how cool it was to play on the
same football field his grandfather played on in the 1940s.
That’s an example of how deep this game goes; how much
history it spans. It’s small-town football at its finest. Do
these programs routinely show up on ESPN now that games
are televised every week? No, these teams don’t make the
national headlines. But they play with the kids who grow up
in their town – the true essence of a historic rivalry.
The Coconut Bowl features
Naples vs. Naples Lely.
DeSoto vs. Hardee is the longest-running, continuous Floridian rivalry.
BY BRIAN MCLAUGHLIN