By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
NORTH PORT — Shut out in back to back games, the winless Bobcats still returned to the practice field with a spring in their step this week.
That’s because this week is a week for them to prove themselves, facing another winless squad in Bayshore on Friday. It’s a game that is very winnable for North Port, which has arguably played one of the toughest schedules in the state through five games.
If there was ever a week to get off the schneid, this is it.
“This is a big week,” North Port quarterback Devon Allen said. “Me and my team are ready. We’re going to bounce back.”
District opponents had big weeks against the Bobcats the past two games. North Port got rolled on the road against Venice 56-0 three weeks ago and then lost to Braden River 38-0 at home following a bye week.
Both those teams made the playoffs a year ago and could very well again this year after 2-0 starts in the district. North Port, on the other hand, is 0-2 after going 0-5 in the division a season ago.
It’s not an easy draw for the Bobcats but coach Brian Hatler insists this is where they want to be. He wants to play the toughest competition.
He also wants his team to play smarter and more efficiently if it’s going to get its first win of the season on Friday.
“Against Venice I think that was our poorest performance, speaking about us,” Hatler said. “Obviously they’re a good football team. Braden River is a good football team, but just from our standpoint, we had way too many mental busts and when you do that against good teams it’s going to get away from you in a hurry.”
North Port hung with Braden River in the first half and drove inside the red zone three times only to come up empty, getting stopped twice on fourth down and missing a field goal.
That’s been a common theme this season for the Bobcats — coming up empty.
“We need to start finishing,” Allen said. “We get off to a good start and we just die out.”
Hatler says his team held its own in that half but those mistakes ultimately prevented a comeback. But he says he’s seen some good things on tape from his team, they just need to limit their mistakes consistently for four quarters.
“We’re going into Bayshore this week and it’s about us,” Hatler said. “We want to do things better, we want to eliminate penalties — we had too many against Braden River — assignment errors and those are things we can control and so we want to get better at what we can control and just get better as a football team.”
Bayshore has been shut out in three of its four games this season and only scored six points in the other against Booker last week. On paper, North Port is the better team, but Hatler doesn’t look at it that way.
Hatler is approaching this game the same way he approaches them all, even if it is North Port’s best shot at victory this season.
“Obviously the goal of every game is we want to go out and win the football game. We want to compete and win,” Hatler said. “We want to go out and worry about us. We don’t really talk about wins and losses. We talk about doing things right and getting better so that’s where we’re at.”
Being efficient on first down will be key for the Bobcats. They’ve been able to move the ball when they’ve put together positive plays on first down but have struggled when they’ve gotten behind the chains.
They’ve also gotten themselves behind in the district standings in a season where they were hoping to improve from last year’s 2-8 record. Keeping players’ heads up and keeping them motivated when things aren’t going well can be tough for a coach but Hatler says he’s doing his best.
Beating Bayshore on Friday would be a healthy boost.
“One of the great things about sports is you have an opportunity to go play again,” Hatler said. “Football is a great game, and with the time and effort that it takes, you better enjoy it so this is another opportunity to enjoy playing football and try to get better and do the things that we need to do to get on the other side of it.”
Name School Comp. Att. Per. Yards TD INT
Dee Hicks Charlotte 30 48 62.5% 586 7 1
Hayden Wolff Lemon Bay 40 98 40.8% 479 1 3
Devon Allen North Port 30 95 31.5% 399 3 1
Paul Barnes Port Charlotte 15 24 62.5% 332 4 0
Name School Att. Yards YPC TD
Maleek Williams Charlotte 75 715 9.5 12
Brayden Curry Lemon Bay 88 388 4.4 3
Ernest Harvey Port Charlotte 45 335 7.4 2
Shawn Campbell Port Charlotte 52 335 6.4 7
Davon Keyes Port Charlotte 47 306 6.5 1
Marc Jean-Louis Port Charlotte 25 289 11.5 1
D’Vonte Price Charlotte 9 278 30.8 4
Octavious Cummings North Port 37 212 5.7 1
Dee Hicks Charlotte 16 202 12.6 5
Javon Howell North Port 55 176 3.2 1
Name School Att. Yards YPR TD
Ernest Harvey Port Charlotte 7 198 28.2 1
Logan Lydic Lemon Bay 14 165 11.7 0
Andrew Grace Charlotte 8 143 17.8 2
Victor Mellor Lemon Bay 14 142 10.1 1
C.K. Poulos North Port 9 129 14.3 1
Jacob White Charlotte 5 127 25.4 1
Skylar Razwilavich North Port 7 117 16.7 1
D’Vonte Price Charlotte 4 115 28.7 2
Andrew Bosma North Port 5 97 19.4 1
POWER OF THREE
Maleek Williams, RB
Williams essentially locked up the area rushing title with his 242-yard performance this week. He now has 715 yards on the season, and his four touchdowns gave him 12 on the season. Not to mention, those stats from this week were from the first half alone.
Ernest Harvey, RB
Harvey came up in the clutch twice for the Pirates in their come-from-behind win on Friday. First, his 80-yard kickoff return through Port Charlotte within three points with five minutes remaining in the game. Then, he used a 45-yard touchdown run to give his team the lead with 1:21 left.
Dee Hicks, QB
Five touchdowns for Hicks on Friday. Four with feet, and another with his arm. Hicks completed each of his three passes for 125 yards, and then scrambled five times for 117 yards. Basically, he was responsible for eight plays, and found the end zone five of those plays.