Palmetto looked every bit the part of the state’s No. 1 team. From the quarterback to the punter, the Tigers were big and athletic.
Through the first two quarters, the Tarpons (5-2, 0-2) kept them contained. They strung together three promising drives, but each fizzled before Charlotte could add points.
The Tigers (7-0, 3-0), who are the top-ranked team in RPI, were elusive in the first half, opening up a 14-0 lead and riding their athleticism to a 34-0 shutout victory at the Fish Bowl.
The Tarpons had trouble slowing down versatile tailback Sagel Hickson, who consistently evaded the first tackler en route to a 144-yard, two-touchdown night.
The Tarpons will have to regroup quickly as they host rival Port Charlotte next week.
Key plays: Palmetto opened the scoring on a 12-yard touchdown run by Hickson with 3:38 left in the first quarter.
After another Tarpon punt, Palmetto quarterback Xavier Williams hit Hickson on a screen, which Hickson took 36 yards for the second score of the game.
In the second half, Palmetto scored on its first drive, marching 51 yards and capping the drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Williams to Curtis Thomas that dropped just over the outstretched arm of the Charlotte corner.
Charlotte quarterback John Busha was intercepted on the ensuing drive on a deep pass down the sideline. That led to the first of two field goals by Palmetto.
Williams capped his night off with a 52-yard bomb to Thomas.
Key stats: Charlotte kept it close in the first half, trailing offensively by just 66 yards, but were outgained 205-68 in the second half.
Charlotte’s Jeremiah Harvey caught four catches for 41 yards in the first quarter before leaving with an injury. Busha was held to just 72 yards on 7 of 17 passing with three interceptions. He was also held to just 1.1 yards per carry on 21 attempts.
Williams was 12 of 21 for 195 yards and three touchdowns.
What it means: The loss crowns Palmetto as District 6A-12 champions and makes next week’s matchup between the Tarpons and Port Charlotte all the more important for playoffs.
What they said: “They’re good,” Charlotte coach Binky Waldrop said. “We had three great drives in the first half and we stopped ourselves. If we could’ve finished one of those, maybe it’s a different story. We just never pulled back together. We just had no answer for (Hickson). No one on our defense could tackle the kid.”