By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — When the clock read all zeroes last Friday night, Port Charlotte had finished off a 28-0 blowout win over Booker, its second shutout in five days.
Sounded pretty good, right coach?
“Yeah, yeah, I’m already onto the next one buddy,” said Port Charlotte coach Jordan Ingman following the victory.
Well then, onto the next one.
And it’s a big one.
Port Charlotte (4-0, 1-0) heads to North Fort Myers (3-1, 1-0) tonight for a big District 10-6A showdown with plenty on the line, possibly even sole possession of first place in the district by the end of the night. That was clearly already on Ingman’s mind following his team’s win over Booker, and he’s had plenty to think about this week after turning on the game tape of the Red Knights over the weekend.
Ingman noticed right off the bat how tremendously talented the Red Knights are, from top to bottom.
“Everything from their wide receivers to their skill guys to their running backs is outstanding,” Ingman said. “They’ve got two inside ‘backers that are very fast and chase the ball. Their whole secondary is extremely athletic.
“There are guys that if you put the ball up in the air and it’s not a good ball, they’re going to pick it off so their skill when you turn the tape on is evident so that’s definitely where our focus has been and making sure we are very aware of the talent and calling the right plays and put our guys in position to be successful.”
The Pirates’ defense will certainly have its eyes on No. 6, the Red Knights’ star running back Zaquandre White. The senior is committed to Florida State and is a four-star prospect, according to Rivals and ESPN.
White, at 6-foot-1 and 203 pounds, is no easy task to bring down. The Pirates know they’ll need a team-effort to stop him tonight.
Or, at least, slow him down.
“It’ll take all of us chasing him and all of us coming together to wrap up and bring him down,” Port Charlotte defensive lineman Devin Leacock said.
Although Ingman says White is very impressive on tape, the Pirates are familiar with him from last year’s contest, which went back and forth until Port Charlotte rallied late in the fourth quarter for the victory.
“We followed (North Fort Myers) throughout the year last year because we knew we were going to play them again this year so we’ve seen some very impressive things out of him but the good thing is, this is a team game, so we’ve been emphasizing to our guys to make sure we have four or five guys chasing the ball,” Ingman said. “Due to our conditioning we’re in good shape right now and we feel that our guys for four quarters can chase the ball relentlessly and that’s what we’re focused on doing (tonight).”
Port Charlotte’s defense has been pretty much impenetrable through the first four games this season. In addition to the two shutouts last week, its starters still haven’t surrendered a point all year.
To keep those players hungry and focused, especially heading into a pivotal game, the coaching staff has been motivating them with the streak. Ingman holds his defense to a different expectation every game depending on the opponent, such as holding a team to less than ten points.
That’s come second nature to the Pirates so far in 2016 and no one of the defense wants to lose the scoreless streak.
“We just push really hard and we like to work in the weight room and then come out here (on the practice field) and run and condition,” Leacock said.
“We’re just trying to come out here as hard as we can and come out with a W.”
District 10-6A is six teams deep and three of those teams already have a loss in the division this season. After tonight there will at least be four, either the Red Knights or the Pirates.
And if Island Coast were to somehow pull off the huge upset and defeat Charlotte, the winner of tonight’s Port Charlotte-North Fort Myers matchup would have sole possession of first place in the district.
Either way, the winner tonight controls its destiny to make the state playoffs and you can bet Ingman has sent that message to his players.
“You live for this. We condition all year for these moments. We work all year for these moments and our guys are aware of what’s on the line (tonight),” Ingman said. “There’s definitely an opportunity to propel ourselves and put ourselves in a really good position in our district race if we win (tonight) against one of the more talented teams in our district so we understand what we’re up against and what is relying on (tonight).”