By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — Port Charlotte fell behind early in Friday’s 54-26 win over North Port, but despite the quick deficit, the Pirates never panicked.
North Port led 14-7, and the game was tied at 14-14 entering the second quarter when the Pirates pounced on the Bobcats for three scores in about a six-minute span.
Port Charlotte’s biggest benefactor, and probably the biggest turning point in the game came when Pirate T.J. Luther intercepted North Port’s Devon Allen with 7:26 remaining in the first half. Port Charlotte had just taken a 21-14 lead on a 30-yard touchdown by former Bobcat Octavious Cummings.
Luther then stole the ball on the next drive, allowing his offensive teammates to need just three plays and 18 yards for a 27-14 lead.
Things began to unravel after that for the Bobcats.
Defensive lineman Devin Leacock forced an Allen fumble on the next drive which put North Port in an impossible third-and-45 situation from inside their own 5-yard line. This allowed Port Charlotte to get the ball back once more with excellent field position, which they used to score again for a comfortable 34-14 advantage.
Even with those big plays, coach Jordan Ingman credited the offensive line with having the biggest impact of the night.
“Those kids work every single day,” Ingman said. “We’re hard on them because they’re the heartbeat of our football team. Any time you run for as many yards as we did, they deserve a lot of credit.”
The Pirates finished with 419 yards rushing with Luther leading the way with 146.
It was a drive which in the grand scheme of a game didn’t really make a difference, but it showed that there is no quit in the Bobcats.
Trailing 47-14 midway through third quarter after allowing 40 unanswered points, the Bobcats took the ball down the field on a 17-play, 86-yard drive that lasted into the final quarter.
North Port wasn’t making a comeback with a drive like that, but it showed exactly what it’s capable of.
“I’m proud of the way our guys played in the second half,” North Port coach Brian Hatler said. “It just didn’t go our way.”
On the lengthy drive, the Bobcats had four successful third-down conversions before eventually finding the end zone on a fourthdown pass from Allen to D.J. Bradford. Comparing that one drive to the rest of the game for North Port, it only managed three other third-down conversions, and ran 19 plays in all of the first quarter alone.