WAUCHULA — The Port Charlotte football team learned its lesson against Hardee last year when the Wildcats nearly led a last-minute comeback effort.
After barely holding on, 21-14, last year, the Pirates (1-0) didn’t let up as they blew past Hardee (0-1) in a 46-26 win at Wildcat Stadium on Friday night.
Though the Pirates ended up winning by 20 points, a pair of late fumbles nearly let the Wildcats sneak back in the game.
“It was deja vu tonight,” Pirates coach Jordan Ingman said. “We didn’t close it out great. We tried to get some young guys in the game and they were wide-eyed. We talked about it at halftime when we were up and had a lead.
“I reminded them how we were up the whole game and almost lost in the last five minutes last year. We talked about it and thank goodness it didn’t happen. But there were some flash-backs for a minute there.”
KEY PLAYS: Logan Rogers hit Alex Perry with a heave down the right sideline for a 52-yard touchdown on the first drive of the game.
Hardee set up a 1-yard touchdown with a 49-yard run by Hardee running back Wilney Francois — who was a problem for the Pirates defense all night.
Jakeemis Pelham helped Port Charlotte tie the game at 13-13 with a 59-yard touchdown run in which he broke several Wildcat tackles.
Port Charlotte finally got a stop on defense as Trevor Antrim came up with a fumble recovery at the Wildcat 14-yard line. A few plays later, Virgil Luther ran in a 4-yard score to go up for good.
Rogers saw a play breaking down and scrambled for a 12-yard touchdown.
With 22 seconds before halftime, Rogers hit Perry with another long touchdown — this one 39 yards — to put the Pirates up 34-13 at halftime.
Solomon Luther fumbled in Port Charlotte territory, leading to a Hardee score.
Luther rumbled in another touchdown.
Francois brought Hardee to within 20 with a 45-yard touchdown run, and although the Hardee defense would force another fumble, it couldn’t capitalize on it.
KEY STATS: Hardee passing: 113 yards and no touchdowns. Port Charlotte passing: 174 yards and two touchdowns.
Hardee rushing: 36 attempts for 202 yards, four touchdowns. Wilney Francois: 18 rushes for 149 yards.
Port Charlotte rushing: 31 rushes for 179 yards, four touchdowns.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Pirates offense looked formidable on Friday night. The defense, however, showed that it will go through some growing pains with nine new starters.
With a 20-point win under their belts to open the season the Pirates will host DeSoto County next week.
QUOTE: “There’s plenty of times when we start terrible and (the defense) picks us up,” Pirates quarterback Logan Rogers said. “So when I knew they were struggling I rallied the offense together and said, ‘Hey, we gotta put up numbers.’ Forty-six points, it seems like we did just that.”