In his most difficult hour, upon seeing the Charlotte High football stadium, weight room and locker room in ruins, coach Binky Waldrop wondered if Hurricane Charley also had destroyed his team’s season.”The day after, I didn’t know what was going to happen, or if we would even have a football season,” Waldrop said, looking back to Aug. 14, the day after the hurricane hit.”We made this decision with one thing in mind, to give our seniors a chance to have a football season and a chance to compete.”
Those seniors include quarterback Wayne Campbell, who completed 133 of 251 passes for 1,833 yards and 15 touchdowns, with 11 interceptions, last season.Campbell left Punta Gorda for Jacksonville the week after Charley arrived. He returned in time for his team’s first post-hurricane practice, held Aug. 24.
“We had a lot of leaking in our living room,” Campbell said. “I didn’t want to leave, but I didn’t want my family to go up there without me.”Mother Nature, that’s what it does to you. I just hope all of the families that had a lot of damage come out of this with nicer homes.”The Tarpons likely will have a nicer home, but it won’t be ready until next fall. In the meantime, the players will have classes at Port Charlotte High during the afternoon. They will practice at the Charlotte County Sports Complex, the former spring-training home of the Texas Rangers. And they will play all of their “home” games at different sites, depending on what can be worked out throughout the season.
Waldrop said it’s tough to get excited about what his new facilities might look like.”We’d rather they be the way they were before,” he said. “People who say, ‘Well, you’re going to get all new stuff,’ they need to think before they say that.”
On the field, the Tarpons will need the contributions of some relatively new faces, after the graduations of wide receiver Cody Milburn and fullback Alvaro Bada, among others.Junior Lance Francis looks to become Campbell’s new go-to target. Austin Mueling will have an increased role at running back, and Darius Martin will start at fullback.”Friday won’t be about winning and losing,” Waldrop said. “It will be about overcoming this.”
Classes, practice, games all will occur away from damaged campus