PORT CHARLOTTE — All Alex Perry could do was watch as his team struggled to keep up with Palmetto in a Week 3 loss.
The Port Charlotte wide receiver was at home watching his teammates on YouTube — away from the team due to a suspension. Though the Pirates trailed 10-7 at halftime, they fell apart in the second half, losing 43-7 in what’s been the team’s only loss this year.
“It hurt real bad,” Perry said of watching his team lose.
“I let my ego get to my head. But being suspended taught me that there’s no irreplaceable man. Once I came back from my suspension. I’ve had my head on straight.”
According to Pirates’ coach Jordan Ingman, Perry’s lack of effort in practice caused him to take action — suspending the junior for a week and asking him to apologize to the team.
“No matter how good our players are, we’re not going to lower our standards,” Ingman said. “Because when they go off to college that doesn’t do them any favors. When Alex gets to college he’s gonna be surrounded by elite players, so we’re trying to continue developing him as a man, not just as a player.
“He’s done a great job responding to the challenge.”
Perry, a 6-foot-5 receiver, has been a difference-maker for Port Charlotte (4-1). When he plays, the Pirates are undefeated while averaging 48 points per game.
A skilled basketball player, Perry has the height and athleticism that often draws double coverage from defenses.
“It’s just like playing basketball with him,” said quarterback Logan Rogers, who is also the school’s point guard. “When I throw him an alley-oop it’s just like tossing him a touchdown. We have confidence in each other to know we’ll make the play.”
Through four games Perry has 12 receptions for 344 yards and 5 touchdowns — giving the team an outside weapon to pair with senior receiver Solomon Luther (28 receptions for 487 yards and 8 touchdowns).
“We have a couple of elite guys on the edge in Solomon and Alex, who are incredible,” Ingman said. “Bear (Rogers) is a three-year starter and he’s to the point where he finishes my sentences now.
“We are a different team with these guys. This is the first time we’ve ever had two guys on the edge like that who are very special players. Normally we have to run the ball to set up the throw, so people have been caught off-guard.”
After establishing a run-heavy attack with Ja’Nyrein Washington the last two years — passing the ball about 25% of the time — Ingman has redesigned the offense around the passing game.
This year the Pirates are passing the ball 35% of the time and it’s resulted in big plays and lopsided wins.
But despite how good the offense has been, it doesn’t quite work when one of the pieces is missing. Port Charlotte found that out the hard way as it struggled to finish drives against the Tigers.
“I think it’s clear to everyone it didn’t benefit us,” Rogers said of missing Perry for the game at Palmetto. “It would have made it a lot easier on us having him out there. But it’s no excuse for the game.
“I guess everything happens for a reason, though. That loss seems to have lit a fire under us these past couple of weeks.”
Perry has taken the loss to heart, Ingman said, and his play on the field has reflected it — with 5 catches for 194 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Last Friday in a blowout of Southeast, he flashed his game-changing ability by taking the first pass of the game for a 70-yard touchdown. Later that quarter, he broke free in the middle of the field and hauled in a 67-yard score.
And it’s not just big touchdowns and leaping catches that have impressed Ingman and teammates, but also a change of heart toward the game.
“They’re teenagers. They’re not perfect,” Ingman said of Perry being suspended. “At the end of the day we’re in this to help develop young people into men and when you get rid of someone you can’t help them anymore.
“He’s really turned it around. Just turn the tape on and you can see it. He’s blocking downfield, he’s the first one to greet a Solomon or a Bear or a (running back) Jay (Pelham), whoever scores. He’s really been a tremendous teammate.”