By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
HARDEE STYMIES PIRATES RUSHING ATTACK
Port Charlotte’s bread and butter is the running game, and it was non-existent Friday night in a 16-6 loss to Hardee in a preseason game.
The Pirates averaged fewer than four yards a carry after converting their initial drive of the night into a touchdown.
Marc Jean-Louis scored on a 14-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter on the host’s first possession, but they fell flat from there.
Quarterback Paul Barnes and company managed to drive to Hardee’s 30-yard line early in the fourth quarter down by seven points, but the quarterback was sacked for a 15-yard loss on a fourth-and-9 play.
The Pirates never got close again.
A 23-yard field goal by Leo Duarte with 1:19 left put the Wildcats up by 10 and the game away.
“This is the third district champion that we played in a row and I think I didn’t do a good job of humbling our guys, but we’re sure as heck humbled right now,” Port Charlotte coach Jordan Ingman said. “It’s on me. I’ve got to do a better job and we’ve got to get to work.”
DEFENSIVE LINE SHINES
Port Charlotte’s defensive front kept the Pirates in the game, especially defensive tackles Devin Leacock and Ludison Jeanty. Jeanty had a nice tackle for a loss on Hardee’s opening drive of the game to knock the Wildcats out of field goal range. Leacock showed off his vertical leap with a batted pass later in the night.
Both players also had a sack in the contest.
NORTH PORT TRANSFER
Octavious Cummings was in uniform for Port Charlotte after spending last season with North Port. The senior was used sparingly, rushing for three yards on two carries.
It remains to be seen how the Pirates will utilize Cummings in their triple option offense. Cummings rushed for 294 yards on 63 carries last season for the Bobcats, averaging a solid 4.7 yards a carry to go with two touchdowns.
Port Charlotte’s other transfer from North Port, Skylar Razwilavich, was sidelined with an undisclosed injury Friday night.
Razwilavich was seen in a knee brace on the sideline. The senior made a big impact in Port Charlotte’s spring game against Riverview in May on both sides of the ball, catching a touchdown pass and intercepting two passes on defense.
BISHOP VEROT-LEMON BAY
ENGLEWOOD — Lemon Bay’s football team showed in the first half of Friday night’s preseason game that it has a lot to look forward to this season.
In the second half, the Manta Rays found out they still have some work to do as they hung on to win 28-27.
The Manta Rays used a strong passing and running game plus a ball-hawking defense to build a four-touchdown halftime lead before the visitors rallied in the fourth quarter against reserves as they hung on for a 28-27 win.
“We need to work on depth more,” Lemon Bay coach Don Southwell said.
“Our starters did a great job but we can’t expect them to play the entire time in all of our games. We held on for the victory but we need to get more depth.”
Bishop Verot scored four touchdowns in the final quarter, the last on a 22-yard pass from reserve quarterback Cole Ames to Tequon Chattman with 1:25 left in the game. The Vikings tried for a two-point conversion, but Logan Lydic stopped a run and the Manta Rays ran out the clock.
Lemon Bay junior quarterback Hayden Wolff threw touchdown passes of 25 and 42 yards to senior Joe Eubanks and the Manta Rays’ running gane was dominant in the first half. Wolff was 6-for-8 passing for 89 yards in one half of action.
Senior Thomas Chaney opened the Manta Rays’ scoring in the first quarter with an 8-yard run with 4:09 left that ended a 58-yard drive. Josh Gossett added a 7-yard touchdown run and Wolff threw his first touchdown pass to Eubanks to conclude the first quarter.
Wolff then completed the 42-yarder to Eubanks with 1:29 left in the first half.
Chaney, a 6-foot-5, 220-pounder, showed both his power and speed in the game. He rambled 72 yards down the left sidelines for an apparent touchdown, but it was called back by a penalty.
“Thomas did a really good job,” Southwell said. “He’s big and has speed. He was here last season, but is playing a different position now.”
Lemon Bay finished with 240 yards rushing. Eubanks also showed his running skills with 56 yards rushing on six carries, all in the first half.
Defensively, sophomore Aidan Moore and senior Dan Baldor intercepted passes to set up the Manta Rays’ second and third touchdowns. Bishop Verot starting quarterback Korey Besse suffered a possible knee injury late in the first half and Ames took over, going 6-for-11 for 129 yards and three TDs.
The Manta Rays have a bye Friday and open their schedule Sept. 1 at home against visiting Golden Gate.
CARDINAL MOONEY-DESOTO COUNTY
ARCADIA — The visiting Cougars got off to a fast start with three touchdowns in the first quarter on the way to a 35-7 win over the host Bulldogs.
A 3-yard run got the Cougars on the board at the 6:32 mark. Less than two minutes later they scored on their first play of the drive with a 53-yard run to take a 14-0 lead. On the final play of the opening quarter, the Cougars scored on a 5-yard pass after the Bulldogs’ defense held on three successive running plays from inside the 5-yard line.
The teams traded touchdowns in the second quarter with the Bulldogs going 70 yards to score. The drive ended with a 22-yard touchdown pass from Malcolm Smith to Arnold Mele with 18 seconds left in the half.
The Bulldogs started the second half with a 40 yard drive that ended on the Cougars 30-yard line as the Bulldogs were unable to convert on fourth down. The Cougars added a 2-yard touchdown run on the first play of the final quarter to close out the scoring.
“Obviously, we have a lot of things to work on, but we’re young and it will come with time,” DeSoto coach Matt Egloff said.
-Sun Correspondents Gary Brown and Steve Knapp contributed to this report