It only took a few seconds, a fumbled kickoff and an Island Coast flea-flicker to set unbeaten Charlotte back on its heels.
When the Tarpons’ defense turned that first Gators threat into a missed field goal, normal service resumed for the Charlotte powerhouse.
Elijah Mack rushed for two first-quarter touchdowns and the Charlotte defense shut down Island Coast in a 45-0 rout of the Gators.
“We keep playing,” Charlotte coach Binky Waldrop said. “It doesn’t matter what happens, we keep playing. I’m proud of them for that.”
The victory was the sixth straight for Charlotte (6-0, 2-0 in District 6A-10), which hasn’t been held under 40 points this season. It was also the second consecutive shutout for the Tarpons.
Island Coast fell to 2-4, 1-1 in district play.
But it did not start off well for the Tarpons, when Jacob White fumbled the opening kickoff – only the fourth turnover the team has committed all season.
Then the Gators immediately went to the trick bag with a reverse option pass, with receiver Smith Joseph finding Bobby Martin open downfield with a pass down to the Charlotte 8.
But the Tarpons’ defense held. Charlotte linebacker Chris Comer stopped Antonio Greaves for a three-yard loss on second-and-goal at the 6, and Gators quarterback Kory Curtis couldn’t find Drew Lusk in the end zone on third down.
That forced a field goal, which Curtis pushed wide right.
“That was huge,” Charlotte linebacker Chase Shepard said of the defensive stop. “But I wasn’t worried. They ran a trick play – teams are going to do that when they see how good our defense is. I knew if they didn’t score on that play, they weren’t going to score.”
After the defensive stand, the Charlotte offense got a chance to show its chops. Tarpons quarterback Brennan Simms hit Stantley Thomas with a deep corner route followed by a quick pass into the flat to take the ball to the Island Coast 45. From there, the Tarpons just needed four runs to find the end zone, capped with Mack’s 28-yard touchdown run around the right side.
Mack followed that with a 19-yard scoring run on Charlotte’s next possession for a 14-0 lead and the Tarpons were flying.
Mack finished with 80 yards and two touchdowns on six carries. Maleek Williams added 108 yards and another two touchdowns – one coming after stripping Curtis for an Island Coast turnover to set up the Tarpons’ scoring march.
Simms completed 14 of 21 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown for the Tarpons. Thomas has six catches for 104 yards, all in the first half.
Jerry Canbric led Island Coast with 61 rushing yards, the bulk coming on a 53-yard burst in the second quarter. Charlotte safety Haroon Sayed saved the touchdown.
Curtis completed 9 of 18 passes for 56 yards. He was also sacked seven times, indicative of Charlotte’s great defensive night.
“They did a great job again tonight,” Waldrop said. “I know we won the battle up front, we ran to the football, we did a great job of covering the pass. We created some turnovers. Another great effort.”
CHARLOTTE 21 | 10 | 7 | 7 – FINAL 45
ISLAND COAST 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 – FINAL 0
C: Elijah Mack 28 run (Justin Andrukiewicz kick)
C: Mack 19 run (Andrukiewicz kick)
C: Jacob White 5 pass from Brennan Simms (Andrukiewicz kick)
C: Maleek Williams 30 run (Andrukiewicz kick)
C: Andrukiewicz 32 FG
C: Williams 3 run (Andrukiewicz kick)
C: D’Vonte Price 3 run (Andrukiewiz kick)