North Fort Myers was in the driver’s seat against Port Charlotte for much of its District 6A-10 game on Friday at Moody Field before the fourth down conversion that went wrong.
The Red Knights went for it with 2:19 left at the 50 yard line leading by just three. North coach Earnest Graham believed the game was over if his team capitalized on the play.
“That’s two minutes left,” he said. “I think we close it out.”
The result did not go as planned, and then three plays later the Pirates split the middle of North’s defense and scored the game-winning touchdown in a 38-34 victory.
It all happened in 90 seconds.
The Red Knights’ last ditch effort in the final moments came up short. Following a 60-yard pass play to Brandon King, quarterback Ben Pogue threw an interception with 18 seconds left.
“It’s just tough,” Graham said. “Obviously, they have a couple high powered guys. We had the ball in the last drive. We had a fourth and one and hoped to get it. We didn’t.”
Port Charlotte senior Ernest Harvey scored on a 45-yard run with 1:21 left, finishing off a 3-play drive that lasted just 58 seconds. The Pirates accumulated just 228 yards of rushing for the game, but they managed 148 in the second half and scored on three of their last four possessions in the second half.
Port Charlotte also overcame a 21-10 deficit at half by scoring two touchdowns to open the third quarter, and then overcame another 10-point hole in the fourth quarter with two scores in the final five minutes of play.
“On paper you look at this football team and some people may say, ‘Hey, what do they got?’” Pirates coach Jordan Ingman said. “But on paper you can’t measure the heart that play inside our young men.”
The Pirates tallied two huge special teams touchdowns on the night. The first was a 73-yard kick return by Tyreece Luther in the second quarter that provided the team’s first score, and the last was an 85-yard kick return by Harvey that followed a North touchdown just 15 seconds later.
With the win, the Pirates (5-0, 2-0) earned an inside track on at least one of the district’s two playoff spots. North (3-2, 1-1), meanwhile, will need to defeat incumbent Charlotte on Oct. 14 and take care of business in the rest of its district games.
“We knew it was going to be a close game,” Ingman said. “We knew it would be a dog fight. And we knew we had to win two of the three phases.”
The loss erased an otherwise promising performance by North Fort Myers’ offense. Senior Zaquandre White rushed for 142 yards on 23 carries and also scored on an 85-yard punt return in the first quarter.
Junior Fa’Najae Gotay added 143 yards rushing on 11 carries and two touchdowns. The Red Knights scored on two of its three series before the first half ended and added two scores on its last two possessions before the critical turnover on downs.
It helped that the Pirates’ Devyn McCormick, who nailed a 46-yard field goal in the second quarter, pinned the Red Knights at their own 20 eight times over the game.
“We believe in the process,” Ingram said. “We believed in each other tonight.”
PC 0 | 10 | 14 | 14 — 38
NFM 0 | 21 | 0 | 14 — 34
NFM — Zaquandre White 80 punt return (conversion failed), 10:03
PC — Tyreece Luther 73 kick return (Devyn McCormick kick), 9:47
NFM — Fa’Najae Gotay 5 run (Ben Pogue run), 8:16
NFM — Garrett Morgan 14 pass from Ben Pogue (Ethan Bennett kick), 4:51
PC — McCormick 48 field goal, 0:44
PC — Shawn Campbell 7 run (McCormick kick), 7:36
PC — Paul Barnes 1 run (McCormick kick), 1:28
NFM — Gotay 35 run (kick failed), 10:34
NFM — Pogue 5 run (Bennett kick), 5:15
PC — Ernest Harvey 85 kick return (McCormick kick), 5:00
PC — Harvey 45 run (McCormick kick), 1:21
Rushing — PC, Marc Jean-Louis 5-22, Ernest Harvey 12-86, Davon Keyes 12-70, Shawn Campbell 10-46, Tyreece Luther 1-minus-6, Barnes 15-4. NFM, Hunter Kobylanski 1-0, Fa’Najae Gotay 11-143, Ben Pogue 3-0, Zaquandre White 23-142.
Passing — PC, Barnes 4-5-0-29. NFM, Nick Perez 2-4-0-9, Pogue 9-16-0-127.
Receiving — PC, Keyes 1-9, Harvey 3-20. NFM, Brandon King 1-60, Luis Alfonso 6-47, Garrett Morgan 2-24, Errick Harris 1-13.