FOOTBALL: Port Charlotte’s Bennett fights through disease to keep playing; Power of Three; Area Stats

By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports

Port Charlotte's Andrew Bennett who suffers from an autoimmune disease called scleroderma, but he doesn't allow it to stop him from playing football (Sun Photo by Michele Haskell).

Port Charlotte’s Andrew Bennett suffers from an autoimmune disease called scleroderma, but he doesn’t allow it to stop him from playing football (Sun Photo by Michele Haskell).

PORT CHARLOTTE — Imagine being a football player where, every time you went to block your opponent, it felt like your wrist and arms were breaking.

Port Charlotte High School’s Andrew Bennett doesn’t need to imagine it because that’s exactly what happens to him.

Bennett, a tight end for the Pirates, was diagnosed with scleroderma in January, which is an autoimmune disease that causes a hardening of the skin and connective tissue. It affects only roughly 300,000 people in America, according to the disease’s official website.

“I couldn’t get down in the push-up position without it hurting, so I went to the doctor,” Bennett said.

That was back in January. Bennett had just finished recovering from surgery for a torn meniscus, which initially led to a misdiagnosis of his condition.

“They thought that it was just scar tissue from being on crutches after knee surgery,” he said. “Then I went to a Rheumatologist, and they did blood work and found my white blood cell count was too high.”

The scleroderma currently only affects Bennett in his wrists and his arms, and, thanks to medicine and physical therapy, it hasn’t spread beyond. There is currently no cure for scleroderma, but if it spreads to his organs, it could be life threatening.

Despite the severe pain, it hasn’t stopped him from playing football.

“I have a lot of respect for Andrew,” Port Charlotte coach Jordan Ingman said. “He works a job, plays football and never makes excuses even though he’s had some tough medical issues he’s had to deal with. He’s always here on time, and gives great effort. He carries more with him than most young men his age have to.

“He starts at tight end for us, and that’s a testament to his mental toughness. He gets treatment on Saturdays where it can make him very fatigued. On Mondays it’s very hard for him coming off those treatments, but he’s still here everyday working just as hard as our other guys.”

Actually, according to his mom, Deanna Mitchell, it’s playing football and being active which helps the disease from spreading, even though it does cause him some pain.

“I said to him one day ‘your arms feel like tree trunks. You could hurt somebody,’” Mitchell said. “He told me ‘actually, mom it hurts me more than it hurts them. It feels like my arm breaks every time I hit someone.’”

To help relieve the pain, he gets his wrists taped up before every game in order to keep them from bending further than he can stand.

Each case of scleroderma is different. It seems as if no two patients are affected in the same way. Bennett will have test results come back in the next few days and few weeks which will help determine whether or not it’s spreading beyond his arms, but he and his family are preparing just in case it does.

“It’s been a reality check and wake up call,” Bennett said. “He’s played sports since he was 5 years old. His goal was to play college football. When he was diagnosed with this, he needed to figure out a career he can do. He might not have the fine motor skills most people have.

“Right now we’re going through a transition-to-work program with the Department of Labor. It helps figure out what kind of condition he’ll be in 10 years, and wants to make sure he goes to college for something he will be able to do if it gets worse.”

With all of the physical therapy appointments, specialists, tests and scans, it has become a hefty financial burden, but the support of the Port Charlotte community has helped eased thing.

Bennett’s girlfriend, Danielle Ferrentino, has not only started a GoFundMe account online, but also collects money and sells shirts at the Pirate football games as well as the Port Charlotte Pop Warner games.

PCHS has also set up a fund where people can donate.

“I am overwhelmed (from the support),” said Mitchell, who believes roughly $2,000 has been collected so far. “I’m not used to people helping out. I’m used to being the one who helps other people. For us to be in this situation, it’s tremendous the amount of people who have shown support. I never thought our family would be in this situation. I’m speechless.”

How can you help out? There are a few ways.

You can mail a check to Port Charlotte High School at 18200 Cochran Blvd., Port Charlotte, FL 33948. If you put “Andrew Bennett” in the note of the check, the school will make sure it gets to the appropriate fund they have set up.

You can also find Ferrentino at Port Charlotte football games, as she goes around to help collect money.

Or you can donate directly to the GoFundMe account she has set up, which can be found at

Name    School    Comp.    Att.    Per.    Yards    TD    INT
Dee Hicks    Charlotte    30    48    62.5%    586    7    1
Hayden Wolff    Lemon Bay    44    107    41.1%    519    1    5
Devon Allen    North Port    42    112    37.5%    507    5    2
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    117    536    4.6    4
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
Javon Howell    North Port    68    261    3.8    2
Octavious Cummings     North Port    43    239    5.6    1
Dee Hicks    Charlotte    16    202    12.6    5

Name    School    Att.    Yards    YPR    TD
Ernest Harvey    Port Charlotte    7    198    28.2    1
C.K. Poulos    North Port    14    189    13.5    3
Victor Mellor    Lemon Bay    16    170    10.6    1
Logan Lydic    Lemon Bay    14    165    11.7    0
Andrew Grace    Charlotte    8    143    17.8    2
Skylar Razwilavich    North Port    10    140    14.0    1
Jacob White    Charlotte    5    127    25.4    1
Andrew Bosma    North Port    7    116    16.5    1
D’Vonte Price     Charlotte    4    115    28.7    2

Power of three

C.K. Poulos
North Port
Five receptions for 50 yards is a modest day for Poulos, but it was his two touchdowns which were huge for the Bobcats. He now has 189 receiving yards on the season, good enough for second-best in the area.

Brayden Curry
Lemon Bay
After a slow start to the season, Curry has rushed for 80 or more yards in each of the last four games for the Manta Rays. His 124 yards were a team high on Friday, and now has 536 rushing yards on the season.

Victor Mellor
Lemon Bay
Mellor can do it all. Run. Throw. Catch. Tackle. It doesn’t matter to him, but it was his rushing ability last week which brought him to this list. He totaled 99 yards on nine carries, including a 40-yard run. He also added a pair of catches for 28 yards.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s