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Naples has plenty of talent to remain atop Southwest Florida

The Golden Eagles lose some stars from 2022 team, but return an abundance of talent
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NAPLES, FLORIDA- Staver Field is a special place on Friday nights, home of the Naples Golden Eagles. 

The expectations were understandably very high in 2022. State championship-type aspirations were running through the minds of coaches, players alike. 

Instead, it would be a playoff run short-lived for the Golden Eagles. Naples ended up exiting out of the Class 3S postseason in the region final, 14-7 loss to Dunbar. 

That was with stars like running backs Kendrick Raphael and Isaiah Augustave in the backfield. Now both of them are graduating and off to the college ranks and leaving big voids in the backfield. 

Also leaving but via transfer was quarterback Niko Boyce, who transferred to Barron Collier this off-season. Some may think the cupboard is becoming bare at Naples, but the Golden Eagles have plenty of talent to keep up in Southwest Florida. 

Among the skill players that will be filling in the voids at the skill position is sophomore running back Shawn Simeon and quarterback Jack Melton. 

Last season, Simeon saw time sparingly in the Naples’ offense as he rushed for 71 yards on 16 attempts and scored twice. Melton was another player that also saw time at the position and made the most of it, with the junior throwing for 180 yards and a touchdown. A player to watch for at the quarterback position at some point is freshman Carter Quinn, who has looked good throughout the off-season. 

Up on the offensive line, the Golden Eagles like to remain lighter because of the amount of pulling and quickness they need in their triple-option rushing attack. One of the lineman that will back up front for head coach Rick Martin is 6-foot-4, 285-pound center Sam Kelley. Kelley helped give directions and pave the way for an offense that churned out just a shade under 3,700 rushing yards last fall. 

A player that has generated a lot of buzz around his name since last season is junior cornerback Ben Bouzi. Bouzi in 2022 made 25 tackles and defended against eight pass and picked off one. The cornerback has picked up a slew of offers recently, with colleges like Florida State, Louisville, Maryland and Pittsburgh among his suitors. 

The biggest name returning to Naples’ defense this spring and upcoming 2023 season is 4-star rated safety Kensely Faustin. Last season, the rangy safety made 42 tackles and picked off five passes, making him one of the most feared defensive backs in the 239. 

Faustin has his pick of the litter when it comes to colleges knocking on his door, with schools like Auburn, Arkansas, Coastal Carolina, Colorado and Duke looking to attain his services. With players like Bouzi and Faustin in the defensive secondary, Naples will be a tough team to challenge on the back end for any quarterback. 

Now Naples’ spring practices will end and culminate with the test of facing off against Venice, a team they’re very familiar with. The Golden Eagles lost 12-11 in 2022 regular season to the Class 4S state runner-ups. 

Facing what will be one of the area’s top offenses and most talented rosters top to bottom, it shall serve as a good barometer of where the Golden Eagles are at heading into the summer and beyond. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Staver Field. 

Andy Villamarzo can be reached at and follow him on Twitter @Andy_Villamarzo.