Preseason and kickoff classics are a thing of the past as high school football gets real with week one this Friday. No area team may have more to prove this year than the Immokalee Indians.
When the Indians take the field this Friday to open their 2022 season, it will signify a major step in the rebuild process under new head coach James Delgado.
Since he took over in December, the program has gone from a team that didn’t have enough players to play high level football a season ago to now getting ready to go toe to toe with the best in Southwest Florida.
Getting to this point, however, has been a long road for the last 8 months.
“All encompicing? Kind of nonstop you know in some ways it feels like we should already be in week six,” Immokalee football head coach James Delgado said.
The team hired Delgado as head coach and immediately took the necessary steps to go from playing independent ball to rejoining the FHSAA and the big dogs in Southwest Florida.
“There has been a lot of growth across-the-board you know coaches, players, everyone for us to get to where we are currently,” Coach Delgado said.
It was growth that didn’t require too much motivation from the new head coach. The motivation has been engrained in the players from a young age.
“Part of the way that they grow up, part of the way that they live, part of the way that they have kind of gotten that bad taste in their mouth for how things have gone here they are willing to go above and beyond to make sure it is not that way anymore. They are willing to change the narrative,” Coach Delgado said.
For the last year, the narrative clouding the program was that they were not as good as other programs in the area.
Due to the numbers the program had last season, the decision was made to play independent football instead of playing their usual Collier County heavy schedule. That narrative of not being a serious team was shoved in their face a year ago.
“To other teams this is like a joke to them. It’s like ‘oh you guys were independent like you are not a real team,” Immokalee junior wide receiver Chandron Pierre said.
This year the group that takes the field in Immokalee is out to change that narrative and against Naples, Gulf Coast and all those other Collier County schools they didn’t have the opportunity to play a season ago.
“Everybody here is a dog you know everybody has pride, everybody wants to work, they wanna win. They don’t like being you know stepped on and stuff like that they wanna be the steppers you know what I mean,” Immokalee senior linebacker Gregorio Herrera said.
It’s that sense of pride in the ‘I’ that has them motivated for a turnaround season.
“This is a place where everyone cares you know it is not a deal where I care I have to force the kids to care or teach the kids to care. Here everyone cares and wants to be great,” Coach Delgado said.
This team and its new head coach can look back on the history of all the great teams in Immokalee’s past as proof to the team that it’s been done before, so why not again?
“I think the underlying deal is why not us? If it can be done here then why not us,” Coach Delgado said.
The Indians will start answering that question on the road Friday against the Community School of Naples.