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North Port gears up for its season opener against Sarasota on Friday after a challenging offseason.

A unconventional offseason hindered by a pandemic led to some rust in North Port’s season opener against Sarasota.

Both teams struggled with penalties, substitutions and execution of plays, but Sarasota eventually found their groove.

Despite the Bobcats forcing a trio of turnovers defensively, the Sailors poured it on in the second half for a 38-9 win to open the season.

KEY PLAYS: Sarasota got on the board with its first defensive snap. A miscue on the North Port kickoff return resulted in their first play starting from the goal line. Bobcat quarterback Kevin Riley completed a short swing pass, but the receiver was tackled in the end zone for a safety.

The Sailors added another two touchdowns in the half — a 17-yard pass from Dom Bennett to Jamall Thompson and a 3-yard run from Bennett. Bennett had two additional touchdowns in the second half.

The second came off a fumbled snap with Bennett lined up at running back. Bennett picked up the ball and threw to a wide open Thompson in the end zone for a 19-yard score in the fourth.

North Port opened their scoring with a 39-yard field goal from Justin Creole to open the second quarter and scored again in the fourth on a tough 5-yard scramble from backup quarterback Sean Silverberg, who replaced Riley in the third due to injury.

KEY STATS: The game featured 32 penalties (14 for North Port, 18 for Sarasota) and seven personal fouls.

The Sailors worked the ground game with Bennett totaling 179 yards rushing with four total touchdowns and Jarmell Holloway adding 101 yards.

Riley had 47 yards rushing on 14 carries before leaving. Sophomore Jeremiah Laguerre was a bright spot for the Bobcats. He intercepted two passes, recovered a fumble, chased down a would-be 52-yard touchdown and recorded multiple 20-plus-yard returns.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN: Not the start North Port wanted to start the season, but it’s only Week 1 in what will be a long, weird season for sure.

QUOTE: “His growth just over the summer, he’s just really matured,” North Port head coach Billy Huthman said of Laguerre. “The reason you see that is because he works so hard.”

Email Jacob Hoag at jacob.hoag@yoursun.com and follow him on Twitter @ByJacobHoag.

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