FOOTBALL: Charlotte eager to play first game

By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports

PUNTA GORDA — When Dee Hicks and the Charlotte High School quarterbacks took the field prior to Friday’s game against Fort Lauderdale, they were thrilled.

After a long summer of preparations, they were finally going to play the first regular season game of the season.

“Our minds were right, so we were ready to go,” Hicks said. “And then ‘boom’ the horns go off. It was frustrating. It was the home opener. We were excited to play.”

The quarterbacks would be the only Tarpons to step foot on the field at Wally Keller Stadium Friday night, as the lightning alarm sounded a few minutes into their warmup routine.

It was more than three hours before the game was postponed and then eventually canceled. Fort Lauderdale was unable to make the trip back to Punta Gorda on Saturday, the only day the game could be played.

“It was business as usual,” Coach Binky Waldrop said. “We were sitting in here, relaxing, and just waiting to go out.”

Maybe for Waldrop it was business as usual, but the players were itching to get out on the field.

For three long, emotionally up-and-down hours, the players and coaches sat in the locker room. Some listened to music, others chatted with their friends. They all took some time to stay loose with the hope they were going to play football.

On two occasions, the players were teased, and thought they were about to go out on the field, so they spent time getting amped up to re-gain the adrenaline it takes to play.

“I helped get my team hyped,” wide receiver/safety Jacob White said. “Then we calmed down, and then we got hyped again. We’ll get all together, get loud, hit each other’s pads, hit the lockers and all that.”

Even though they were adequately hyped, it turned out to be for nothing.

Around the same time Hicks should’ve been leading his team on a drive in fourth quarter, he instead was sitting in Applebee’s with his family. That’s when it hit him.

“The rain was just teasing me all night,” Hicks said. “Then hearing about all the teams that got to play was frustrating. I was mad.”

Waldrop isn’t overly concerned with the fact that this week’s opponent, Lely, has one game under its belt, while Charlotte’s only game was a preseason romp of Clewiston.

“They got to play and we didn’t,” Waldrop said. “We’ll see how the rust factor does in that. We didn’t get to practice (much) last week (because of weather). That’s the first three or four weeks.”

The lack of a first game didn’t alter the way he prepares his team, although he elected not to hold a practice on Saturday.

“We usually come in Saturday, but we didn’t (this week),” Waldrop said. “I didn’t think it would benefit us to do that. Kids were just devastated that they didn’t get to play Friday night. I thought bringing them in Saturday would be counter-productive.”

With a tropical depression looming in the Gulf of Mexico, weather likely will be a factor again this week. But in Florida, when is it not?

This time around, the Tarpons hope more than just Hicks and the other quarterbacks can take the field.

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