North Fort Myers never let this game get away.
Which was the exact response the Red Knights needed to put to bed the last three weeks of football.
While the Red Knights 41-15 win over Ida Baker on Friday at Moody Field couldn’t miraculously push them back into the playoff race in District 6A-10, it did provide a decisive boost heading into the last two weeks of the season.
Previous losses to Charlotte and Port Charlotte aside, this North Fort Myers team looked nothing like the second half squad that limped to the finish in those games.
The Red Knights (4-3, 2-2) scored the game’s first two touchdowns on 1-play drives and then bullied Ida Baker with 27 second half points. The Bulldogs (2-7, 0-4) yielded 237 yards on the ground and gave up four rushing touchdowns.
“We made the plays we needed to make,” North coach Earnest Graham said. “In the first half we really wanted to come out and pound the ball because we knew we were going to get a couple different kids the ball.”
Junior Fa’Najae Gotay scored on a 52-yard carry on his second touch from scrimmage in the first quarter and then broke through for another just two series later for 84 yards. He finished with 137 yards on 10 carries and also helmed a defense that bent but didn’t break very often.
“Our purpose was that we wanted to play a complete game,” Graham said. “I think we did that. We were efficient and just made good plays all around.”
North didn’t beat itself as it did in losses to Port Charlotte and Charlotte, turning the ball over three times but preventing the Bulldogs from capitalizing.
Senior Zaquandre White was nursing an injury for most of the game and carried five times for 37 yards and two scores in the fourth quarter. Junior quarterback Ben Pogue was 6 of 9 for 176 yards and two touchdowns in the air.
The Red Knights strung together 479 yards of total offense.
North’s defense also forced Ida Baker into six turnovers and three takeaways, including two interceptions. In the third quarter, junior Joe Wilkins raced back 53 yards to the Bulldog’s 12 before the Red Knights scored one play later. Herb Riggins added the team’s other interception.
“We knew they were a passing offense, so we just played the pass for the most part and stuff the run,” said Gotay, who soaked up the middle of the field at linebacker. “This was a great win.”
Ida Baker had moments of success, including 12 third quarter points. Running back Shomari Mason scooted into the end zone from 7 yards out with 6:49 left in the third quarter, cutting the lead to 12 points, and finished with 22 carries for 79 yards.
But Ida Baker also made its fair share of mistakes. They turned the ball over on downs three times, and had three vital scoring opportunities inside North’s 20 go south in the first half. Bulldogs junior quarterback Toby Noland was 27 of 42 for 195 yards, but he was intercepted twice.
Kicker Nick Jacob nailed a 25-yard field goal to open up Ida Baker’s scoring in the second quarter.
NORTH FORT MYERS 41, IDA BAKER 15
IB 0 | 3 | 12 | 0 —15
NFM 14 | 0 | 13 | 14 —41
NFM — Fa’Najae Gotay 52 run (Ethan Bennett kick), 9:41
NFM — Gotay 84 run (Bennett kick), 1:32
IB — Nick Jacobs 25 field goal, 3:00
NFM — Errick Harris 12 pass from Ben Pogue (Bennett kick), 10:56
IB — Shomari Mason 7 run (kick failed), 6:49
NFM — Luis Alfonso 48 pass from Pogue (conversion failed), 4:52
IB — Luke Endsley 38 pass from Toby Noland (conversion failed, 0:23
NFM — Zaquandre White 8 run (Bennett kick), 11:55
NFM — White 33 run (Bennett kick), 6:31
Rushing — IB, Shomari Mason 27-79, Luke Endsley 4-16, Toby Noland 6-6; NFM, Fa’Najae Gotay 10-167, Terry Lindsey 4-3, Hunter Kobylanski 4-28, , Bryce Adkins 1-3, Zaquandre White 5-37, Nick Perez 2-minus-1.
Passing — IB, Toby Noland 27-42-2-195; NFM, Ben Pogue 6-9-1-176, Nick Perez 3-4-0-36.
Receiving — IB, Endsley 8-84, Robert Cobb 2-24, Josh Nina 5-17, Mason 4-27, David Drennan 2-5, James Cuttino 5-38; NFM, Blake McPherson 2-26, Joe Wilkins 1-25, White 1-7, Herb Riggins 2-32, Luis Alfonso 1-48, Garrett Morgan 1-62, Team 1-12.