By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
PUNTA GORDA — Progress for the Charlotte football team has been, well, progressing this summer.
And after the team’s recent trip to the University of South Florida’s 7-on-7 camp, the Tarpons are feeling pretty good heading into the first practice of the 2017 season Saturday morning at 12:01 a.m.
Charlotte went 8-2 at USF and advanced to the quarterfinals in a 63-team field. The Tarpons went 6-1 in pool play to qualify for the knockout tournament, losing to Daytona Beach Mainland before knocking off Barron Collier, Tampa Catholic, Gibbs, Bloomingdale, Atlantic Coast and Sickles.
Once in tournament play, Charlotte defeated Palm Harbor University and Atlantic Coast again before getting eliminated by Armwood in the quarterfinals on July 16.
“I thought it was a great camp,” Charlotte coach Binky Waldrop said. “We also had 13 linemen up there for their linemen camp so it’s a pretty big weekend for us every year. I was really impressed and proud of the way the guys played. We did an awesome job of catching the football. We did little things right. We were competitive. Our kids really competed and that’s why we do that.”
Waldrop said no one in particular stood out at the camp. Charlotte’s success was a collective team effort.
“I’m not just saying that. We took 18 kids up to participate in the 7-on-7 deal and it was good. They all did good. There was just some great talent up there,” Waldrop said.
It was just a few weeks earlier that the Tarpons looked like a team trying to find themselves. Charlotte played in a 12-team, 7-on-7 tournament at Venice High School on June 27 and went just 2-4-1 on the day.
That day served as a wake-up call for the Tarpons, who have since responded in practice and against competition.
“I was nervous and we came back the next week and went up to Sarasota Riverview and beat Venice, Armwood and Sarasota Riverview. 7-on-7 is a lot like playing baseball. You do a couple of little things wrong or get a bad break and it’s hard to win.”
The Tarpons are feeling confident heading into their first practice of the season, even though their quarterback situation remains unanswered. But with a strong defense returning, Charlotte hopes its primed for another strong season.
“Where we need to improve defensively is our front seven and you don’t do that in 7-on-7. But I will say the kids that play up front defensively had a great summer. They’ve worked hard and gotten stronger.”
Charlotte is coming off one of its best seasons in school history, winning district and region championships before falling in the Class 6A state semifinals.