For Some Reason, Former Cavalier Coach Don Simon Had It Figured Out

The Lee County-Southern Lee Rivalry is THE football rivalry for local high school football fans.    The game will happen this Friday night at Paul Gay Stadium on the Lee County campus and both fan bases will brave the cooler temps to come see the local teams battle.    This will be the 14th time the teams have played with Lee County leading the all-time series record 8-5, and except for a short stay at Southern Lee by Don Simon, there have been few upsets in this crosstown series.

Don Simon came to Southern Lee in the fall of 2013 with the Cavaliers having lost the previous 4 Brick City Bowls to the Yellow Jackets by a combined score of 203-20.    His coaching counterpart at Lee County was Burton Cates, a Hall-of-Famer, who won his 1st 5 games against Southern Lee in the crosstown rivalry.     Simon went 3-9 in his 1st season but found a way to be competitive against Lee County in a 23-9 loss.    But Simon figured something out going forward and beat 3 very good Lee County teams in a row from 2014-16.

In 2014, Lee County entered the game 8-1 and Southern Lee was 6-4.   This was RB Jerry Pullum’s senior year and Lee County heavily favored.   But Pullum was basically a no-show on the stat sheet against Southern Lee and the Cavalier’s defense stuffed Lee County 14-3.     Lee County went on to finish at 9-4 and Southern Lee was 8-5.

In 2015, Lee County entered the game at 8-2 with Southern Lee at 4-6.    Lee County was loaded defensively but the Cavaliers came up big in the 4th quarter to win 21-20.   This game is remembered as the “Terhune Pass” – a Hail Mary into the end zone that won it for Southern Lee.   Lee County would finish the season at 8-4 and Southern Lee at 5-7.

Lee County entered the 2016 game unbeaten at 9-0.    Jahmir Smith would finish the season with over 2000 yards and head to Notre Dame after the following season.   Keaton Forbes was leading the best Jacket defense in years.    But again, the Cavaliers and Simon found a way.    Southern Lee entered the game at 7-2 and left with a 16-13 victory against Lee County.  Lee County would go 12-2 on the season and the Cavaliers finished at 8-4.

Don Simon left Southern Lee for a Florida High School prior to the 2017 season and with it a 3-1 record in the series.   Southern Lee teams were 24-24 during Simon’s tenure while Lee County was 38-13 during the same years.  Exactly what Simon figured out we’ll never know, but we do know the Cavaliers improved defensively during Simon’s stay. They also played Lee County late in the season when plenty of scouting material was available – whatever the case – Simon’s teams were prepared for what Lee County would do. The Yellow Jackets only scored 36 points in the 3 losses to Simon’s Cavaliers, so evidence of being prepared defensively is glaring. Burton Cates’ Yellow Jackets would win the following year and Cates would end up at 6-3 in the series before leaving Lee County.