By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PUNTA GORDA — Maleek Williams loves his new role as the featured running back at Charlotte High School.
Williams was one of the area’s best two-way players last season, spending most of his time as a linebacker. He even made The Sun’s all-area team as a junior, totaling 55 tackles four sacks and two forced fumbles.
Just because he’s the area’s top running back now, as he leads with 802 yards and 14 touchdowns, that doesn’t stop Tarpon coach Binky Waldrop from using him on defense.
“District game, and our backs were against the wall,” Waldrop said after Friday’s game against North Fort Myers. “You’re going to put your best people on the field. That’s it.”
Even though Williams prefers playing offense to defense, he’s more than willing to step up and do what it takes to help his team.
“I knew they needed me in this game,” Williams said. “I have to do what’s best for the team, and put away my selfishness or my pride, and just do whatever is best for the team… It’s all about what’s best for the team. I’m not just going to sit back because I want to play running back.”
It wasn’t the first time Waldrop turned to Williams on defense this season, but perhaps, it was the most necessary time for Williams to play, as Charlotte trailed at halftime for the first time all season.
Williams made a crucial stop on a third-down play which forced a punt on the Red Knights’ opening drive of the second half.
“I’m pretty confident in my abilities as linebacker,” Williams said. “I was looking at how the game was going and felt like I could make a play.
He wasn’t the only part of Charlotte’s offensive centerpiece to play on defense last week. Quarterback Dee Hicks, who also was a Sun all-area defense back last season, played on a key series at the end of the game.
Hicks made a nice open-field tackle on the play prior to the one where the Red Knights scored its touchdown to bring the score to 24-21 with 25.6 seconds left in the game.
“I’ve been playing DB my whole life. It was good to get out there again,” said Hicks, who totaled 36 tackles and four interceptions a year ago.
Waldrop, Hicks and Williams recognize the importance of tomorrow’s game against Cape Coral.
With a huge matchup against Port Charlotte looming in two weeks, don’t call this a trap week. At least, not to Waldrop.
“The kids understand the importance of district games. It’s that simple,” Waldrop said. “We don’t need to constantly remind them of that. They know.”
Hicks and Williams both have their sights focused on Cape Coral, and know they can’t look ahead to the rivalry game just yet.
“We just take it week by week,” Hicks said. “Port Charlotte is next week. We’ll focus on them next week.”
This week has its importance beyond just it being a singular district game. A win for the Tarpons would guarantee a regional playoff appearance no matter what the outcome of the rest of the season is.
Power of three
Took a punt return for a 47-yard touchdown to give the Tarpons an early lead, and then iced the victory by grabbing his seventh interception of the season in the final few seconds of the game.
Port Charlotte, RB
Had a breakout game with 295 yards on just nine carries in a win for the Pirates. He also scored four touchdowns, all of which came in the second half.
Port Charlotte, RB
Was the second-best running back in the area on Friday, and was also the second-best on his team. Still managed 173 yards and a pair of touchdowns, which isn’t a shabby day at all.
Name School Comp. Att. Per. Yards TD INT
Dee Hicks Charlotte 33 59 55.9% 602 7 1
Hayden Wolff Lemon Bay 53 127 41.7% 586 1 5
Devon Allen North Port 48 129 37.2% 579 5 4
Paul Barnes Port Charlotte 15 27 55.5% 332 4 0
Name School Att. Yards YPC TD
Maleek Williams Charlotte 92 802 8.7 14
Marc Jean-Louis Port Charlotte 34 584 17.1 5
Brayden Curry Lemon Bay 139 583 4.1 4
Ernest Harvey Port Charlotte 58 508 8.7 4
Shawn Campbell Port Charlotte 56 355 6.3 7
Davon Keyes Port Charlotte 47 306 6.5 1
Dee Hicks Charlotte 22 291 13.2 5\
D’Vonte Price Charlotte 9 278 30.8 4
Victor Mellor Lemon Bay 42 194 4.6 1
TJ Luther Port Charlotte 8 193 24.1 1
Name School Att. Yards YPR TD
C.K. Poulos North Port 15 218 14.5 3
Ernest Harvey Port Charlotte 7 198 28.2 1
Victor Mellor Lemon Bay 18 179 9.9 1
Logan Lydic Lemon Bay 16 163 10.1 0
Jacob White Charlotte 7 143 20.4 1
Skylar Razwilavich North Port 10 140 14.0 1
Andrew Grace Charlotte 9 137 15.2 2
Brenden Shuman Lemon Bay 8 127 15.8 1
Andrew Bosma North Port 8 126 15.7 1
D’Vonte Price Charlotte 4 115 28.7 2