By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
ENGLEWOOD — Coming into this season, the Lemon Bay High School football team was hoping to build off a strong 2015.
With seven starters on offense and seven starters on defense returning this year, there was plenty of experience on both sides of the ball.
So how is it that they’re 0-4 through the first five weeks of the season?
“I think there are a lot of different reasons,” coach D.J. Ogilvie said. “We have had some (bad luck) with the way the ball bounces sometimes. We’ve had just a breakdown in alignment, or in our assignment, at the worst possible time. We’ve committed a penalty at the worst possible time. Our kids have still worked hard.”
When you look at it on paper, at least before the season, the Manta Rays easily could have been 2-2 at this point, if not 3-1.
The fact that they’re still searching for their first win has been a shock to the whole team.
“To be honest, I didn’t have a number,” Ogilvie said. “Did I expect us to be 0-4? No. 100 percent no. I think right now in our program, being 0-4, every coach and every player is kind of shell shocked. I don’t think anybody expected us to be like this.”
Perhaps what makes the four-straight losses to open the season so baffling is that, at least in the last three weeks, Lemon Bay could have won those games if not for two or three plays. Even in their worst loss, week one against Port Charlotte, Ogilvie sees how two plays completely changed the game.
“It’s very frustrating,” he said. “You can even go back to the Port Charlotte game. Fumbling the opening kickoff, and then the very next series, turning the ball over and them scoring off the fumble, and being down 10-0. I’m not saying that made the difference, but that’s a huge momentum swing.”
It was two plays again in last week’s 27-14 loss to Cardinal Mooney which halted the Manta Rays’ efforts.
With a little over 30 seconds remaining in the first half, Lemon Bay failed to convert a fourth-and-two opportunity near midfield. One play, 47 yards and a few seconds later, it went from being a 14-14 game, to the Manta Rays trailing 20-14 without any time to regain momentum before the break.
Ogilvie says it felt like they were punched in the mouth with that play, and it was rudimentary assignment mistakes which led to that touchdown for Cardinal Mooney. That was the second play of more than 45 yards where virtually the same mistake was made.
If you take away those two plays, Lemon Bay wins 14-13.
Yet, even with an 0-4 start, high school football has a heavy importance in its district games. The Manta Rays have only played one district opponet so far, a loss against DeSoto County.
This means there’s still a chance for them to make the playoffs if they win out the district of their district schedule. But the toughest test comes this week against Hardee, which doesn’t allow Ogilvie and the Manta Rays to look that far ahead.
“To think at 0-4 you still have a chance to win the district is way out in front of us,” Ogilvie said. “The odds are stacked against us. We’re going away to Hardee. On film, they look like the best team we’ve played all year. To look ahead and worry about districts, we’re just going to take this one game at a time, and try to keep getting better. We have a huge task ahead of us going on the road.”
A big factor in getting Lemon Bay to where they want to be is the continued growth and progression of quarterback Hayden Wolff.
The sophomore is in his first season at the varsity level, and Ogilvie says he likes the way he’s played, but would love to see his young quarterback continue to develop as a leader.
Wolff made some strides as the encouragement to his teammates this week against the Cougars.
“This past week, I reminded the guys we need to play with a chip on our shoulders before one drive,” Wolff said. “We were digging deep. Kids were cramping. Curry was tired, and bending over because he ran the ball six times in a row. I just reminded them to dig deep because we were working for this all summer.”
Lemon Bay went on a 14-play, 65-yard drive that time, as Wolff helped lead them down the field, and Curry capped it off with a six-yard touchdown to give the team a 14-7 lead.
It’s drives like that one which shine some hope to turn the season around, as they still have an opportunity to build off a strong 2015 and get back to the playoffs this year.
POWER OF THREE
Victor Mellor – ATH
Mellor caught a season-high eight passes for 72 yards in a loss last week, but his 16-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter gave the Manta Rays an early 7-0 lead.
Shawn Campbell – RB
Totaled just 54 yards on the ground in a win for the Pirates, but he found the end zone three times. It was his second three-score game of the season.
Savorion Warren – DB
Warren intercepted the Fort Myers quarterback three times in the Tarpons’ win. He now has six on the year, and most of which have come in clutch situations where his team needed it the most.
TOP AREA STATS
Name School Comp. Att. Yards TD INT
Dee Hicks Charlotte 27 45 461 6 1
Hayden Wolff Lemon Bay 33 79 372 1 3
Devon Allen North Port 20 64 340 3 1
Paul Barnes Port Charlotte 12 20 311 4 0
Name School Att. Yards YPC TD
Maleek Williams Charlotte 62 473 7.6 8
Brayden Curry Lemon Bay 71 308 4.3 1
Shawn Campbell Port Charlotte 42 284 6.7 6
D’Vonte Price Charlotte 9 278 30.8 4
Marc Jean-Louis Port Charlotte 21 275 13.0 1
Ernest Harvey Port Charlotte 31 245 7.9 1
Davon Keyes Port Charlotte 35 238 6.8 1
Octavious Cummings North Port 29 177 6.1 1
Javon Howell North Port 53 177 3.3 1
Paul Barnes Port Charlotte 39 151 3.8 3
Name School Rec. Yards YPR TD
Ernest Harvey Port Charlotte 5 181 36.2 1
Logan Lydic Lemon Bay 12 141 11.7 0
Jacob White Charlotte 5 127 25.4 1
Victor Mellor Lemon Bay 12 122 10.1 1
D’Vonte Price Charlotte 4 115 28.7 2
C.K. Poulos North Port 7 106 15.1 1
Skylar Razwilavich North Port 6 99 16.5 1
Andrew Bosma North Port 5 97 19.4 1
Marc Jean-Louis Port Charlotte 4 83 20.7 1
Andrew Grace Charlotte 7 77 11 1