FOOTBALL: Port Charlotte faces tough test to begin playoffs

By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports

PORT CHARLOTTE — There was one word Port Charlotte High School coach Jordan Ingman repeatedly used to describe Friday’s regional quarterfinal matchup with Clearwater.

“Dogfight.”

Ingman expects another good ol’ fashioned, grind it out football game when the Pirates (8-1) visit the Tornadoes (9-1) for the second straight year in the opening round of the Class 6A playoffs. Last year’s duel was a classic, with Port Charlotte rallying from an eight-point halftime deficit for an 18-14 victory — the first road playoff win in program history — thanks to a fourth quarter touchdown by Ernest Harvey.

But this year’s contest will look a bit different, at least for the Pirates, who come in fresh off of a 35-0 win over Hialeah Westlake.

For starters, Port Charlotte will be without Harvey after he broke his ankle in the team’s lone loss to Charlotte two weeks ago. The senior was Port Charlotte’s leading receiver and second-leading rusher — averaging 11.1 yards every time he touched the ball — and his injury has forced other guys to step up on offense, starting with quarterback Paul Barnes.

“It’s something we have to work to,” Barnes said. “It was big losing him and he was a big thing in our offense but other people have to step up, like Marc (Jean-Louis) or Shawn Campbell, and other people on the O-line need to step up a little more to give that extra room that Ernest wouldn’t need as much.”

To make matters even tougher this week, the Pirates will face arguably the most talented front seven they’ve seen all year with Clearwater, which wrapped up its first undefeated regular season since 1970 with a win over East Lake last Friday. Just along the Tornadoes’ defensive line is ESPN 4-star defensive end Kane Taylor — who is entertaining offers from the likes of Alabama, Louisville, Michigan and Miami — and ESPN 3-star defensive end Tramar Reece, who is committed to Indiana.

And those two players don’t even lead the team in sacks. That would be Garet Chisolm, who has 10 sacks compared to nine for Reece and two for Taylor.

Barnes isn’t kidding when he says other players are going to have to step up without Harvey.

And Ingman knows it.

“You lose a guy that was our featured guy and was our leading receiver — he had more touches than anybody on our offense and there’s a reason for it — so we’ve had to change some things, tweak some things, plug some guys in and definitely had to tweak our philosophy,” Ingman said. “But we’ve done that, we’ve adjusted to it and we’re moving forward.”

That Division I talented defensive front is only half the battle for Port Charlotte. Clearwater also has an ESPN 3-star receiver in Jacquez Jones, who is committed to Tennessee, and an ESPN 4-star running back in Adarius Lemons who has 20 Division I offers.

Jones is a threat all over the field. He’s caught 48 passes for 837 yards and nine touchdowns and he’s also rushed for four more scores.

“That kid is special. They move him around and get him the ball in space,” Ingman said. “He reminds me a lot of the kid we played a couple of years ago at East Lake, (Artavis) Scott, who is now playing at Clemson, so he’s really special in space.

“He’s definitely their featured guy. He’s maybe the most talented guy we’ve played this year. We’re definitely aware of the talent they have but we’ve had a great couple of weeks of practice and I’m really looking forward to the opportunity.”

Perhaps an even a tougher challenge for the Pirates this week has been keeping their minds off rirval Charlotte. A win over

Clearwater will most likely give the Pirates a rematch with the Tarpons in the region semifinals, and each and every player in red and black is itching for the chance at redemption for the 21-17 loss two weeks ago.

Barnes is doing his best to remind his teammates that there’s no Charlotte without a win over Clearwater.

“The thing we have to realize is it’s the playoffs now so if we don’t win, we don’t play Charlotte, so we’ve got to put our minds to this week,” Barnes said.

Easier said than done.

“It’s been hard, I’ll be honest with you,” Ingman said. “We’ve had to definitely remind our guys to stay focused on this week and the task at hand. I know our guys are hungry and they definitely want a shot (at Charlotte), and as coaches, that makes our jobs easier.”

Friday night’s contest will be anything but.

It’ll be a dogfight.

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