By ROB SHORE, SunCoast Sports
Seconds after Port Charlotte High School put to bed its 32-0 spring football victory over Hardee, a Pirates observer on the sidelines turned to me and asked me to sum up the game in a single word.
My answer was simply this: “Impressive.”
Honestly, I had concerns (I couldn’t have been the only one) how Port Charlotte would fare after the graduation of quarterback Traige McClary and the loss of six of its defense front seven. As it turned out, there was no cause for alarm.
Arguably most impressive was the defense that supposedly was breaking in a whole new front. But that was the defense that limited Hardee to 72 total yards and forced five turnovers in the game.
If I had one word to describe the defensive performance, it would have been “disruptive.”
(Important point: The two players who took snaps for the Wildcats during their loss Friday night were both rising sophomores. You never know about the level of competition in a spring game — Port Charlotte made Hardee look very ordinary last spring and the Wildcats went on to win 11 games.)
The defensive line was solid. (Pardon if I leave players out, there were obviously substitutions throughout the contest.) Players such as Simeon Beckford, Junior Guerrier, Tyler Peacock and Berno St. Pierre caused major problems for Hardee. Could they be just as good as Ian Bush, Greg Patton and Calvin Collins? That remains to be seen, but so far, so good.
Get back to linebackers and you get player such as Taylor Severson and Aaron Wertz. More good stuff.
Then there was this: Port Charlotte could probably have had more turnovers. Defensive back Tiyan Bush had two near-interceptions in the first half before finally nabbing one late in the contest.
Was the defense good? Sure, assuming Hardee wasn’t totally outmatched when the Wildcats walked onto the field – but it’s spring football. Does anybody really know for sure?
Offensively, Port Charlotte looked about the same as they did last season – a solid ball-control team which were excellent defensively. The offensive was coming off a season that ran six or seven guys effectively.
Friday night, the Pirates saw Brennan Norus, Anthony Stephens and Grady Wells combine for 234 rushing yards. That was without Martin Luther or Keon Suber, so make of that what you will.
Stephens wasn’t asked to throw much, perhaps so there wouldn’t be much film on it. But on his first pass attempt of the night, he aired out an 80-yard touchdown pass to Paulsin Heitter.
For a team supposedly on the rebound, it was a good effort. Maybe they felt the pressure of posting a good performance after Charlotte’s impressive victory over Dunbar (not probably, but a possibility).
But if not, Port Charlotte fans look to be set for more of what they saw last season – a disruptive defense, a multi-faceted running game triggered by a dynamic quarterback, a passing game that’s dangerous enough to hold the respect of defenses.
On the whole, that’s not a bad package of goods.