The Charlotte High School football program is a different animal at home where the Tarpons will host the regional quarterfinals against Clearwater High on Friday.
The blue-and-gold faithful pile into the Fish Bowl and bring plenty of juice for their team.
And it shows.
Prior to the Tarpons’ loss to Palmetto last week, Charlotte (8-2) rode a six-game regular season home win streak with an average margin of victory of 41 points. With the home crowd at their back, the second-seeded Tarpons are ignited.
“They’ve been here before so it’s not like they’re going somewhere they haven’t been,” Charlotte coach Binky Waldrop said of Clearwater. “There’s obviously something about us playing at home. It’s pretty cool, hopefully we’ll have a good crowd here.”
Clearwater (6-4), which boasts a high-powered offense, scores an average of 35.3 points per game and are 4-1 this season in road games.
The essence of Clearwater’s offense comes down to a beefed up offensive line and explosive weapons for quarterback Rent Montie, who has passed for 2,122 yards and 22 touchdowns this year.
Montie’s favorite target has been junior Keedrik Murray. One of the most explosive talents the Tarpons have faced, according to Waldrop, the 5-foot-8 speedster has caught 49 passes for 908 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“They like to throw the ball,” Waldrop said. “I can’t think of a wideout we’ve played this year that will be better than this kid. Last week against East Lake, which is a good team, he had like 190 yards receiving.”
But as prolific as they are passing, they run the ball just as well. Senior Qwa’shaun Perry has averaged 7.1 yards per carry with 811 yards and 12 touchdowns to his credit.
“They have a receiver that can flat out go, a quarterback that’s a really good passer,” Waldrop said. “They have three lineman over 300 pounds and a 208-pound running back. The right tackle is apparently committed to the University of Florida. We’re gonna have our hands full defensively.”
Charlotte enters the postseason with a few guys healthier than before and few guys banged up, like most teams in Game 11 of the year.
The biggest boost comes with the full return of senior quarterback Alex Muse, who sat last week to heal his shoulder. Muse has accounted for 18 of the team’s 40 touchdowns and threw for 201 yards and two scores in the second half alone against Port Charlotte two weeks ago.
Even with his prowess on the field, his leadership is what this team needs in the most pressure-packed stretch of the season.
“The kid’s a winner, period,” Waldrop said. “That’s the vibe that he sets out. He makes everybody around him believe and makes everybody around him better. It means everything.”