Considering the risk, perhaps North Fort Myers senior running back Zaquandre White will need to take precaution with his tender left ankle from this point moving forward.
But if he were to have it his way, like he did Friday at Moody Field in the Red Knights’ 27-10 win over Island Coast, the Florida State commit wouldn’t have it any other way.
Put him in. He’s a gamer.
Buoyed by the 6-foot-2, 200-pound back, who had his first big game of the high school football season despite playing less than 100 percent, the Red Knights powered past the Gators in a strong first half, compiled 257 rushing yards and received a breakthrough performance from freshman quarterback Nick Perez, who threw for 76 yards and a touchdown.
The14-year-old was calling the shots in only his second varsity game.
“We went out there 100 percent,” said White, who rushed for a team-high 165 yards on 14 carries and scored on a 70-yard touchdown in the second quarter. “A-plus effort from the guys.”
Senior running back Fa’Najae Gotay added two touchdowns and 68 yards on 11 carries, including a 5-yard scamper to finish off a 5-play, 54 yard drive in the first quarter to open the team’s scoring. North Fort Myers (2-1, 1-0) moves on to play Lehigh in a non-conference game next week.
“If we put everything together, it’s going to be hard to stop us,” Gotay said.
Gotay also locked down Island Coast ball carriers for much of the first half at the linebacker position. The Gators (0-4) finished with just 20 net rushing yards overall.
“It was a great first half,” North Fort Myers coach Earnest Graham said. “We wanted to play a physical style and create pressure, which I think we did.”
White didn’t start the game, but entered on the team’s fourth possession.
Following his score early in the second half, North Fort Myers (2-1) closed the quarter with a 7-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 48-yard pass from Perez to receiver Brandon King on a fly pattern down the left side of the field.
It came after Island Coast had mostly silenced the crowd with a methodical 13-play, 52 yard series that lasted seven minutes and resulted in a 39-yard field goal by Kory Curtis with a little less than 3:30 left in the second quarter.
However, the Red Knights pushed to finish the half, capitalizing on its third series in four tries to go into the break leading 20-7.
“I think that catch by Brandon King really reinvigorated us going into the locker room,” Graham said.
The Gators, meanwhile, fumbled meaningful opportunities. Their first play from scrimmage was a fumble that North Fort Myers picked up. They were playing without senior receiver Marlon Gaymon, who may not return for up to two weeks.
They dropped at least six passes from Curtis, including one deep bomb that very well could have resulted in for a touchdown in the first quarter.
“They have to have the confidence and believe in themselves,” Gators coach John Schwochow said. “They have to believe they can beat these teams.”
Senior quarterback Kory Curtis was 10 of 23 for 69 yards. He found receiver Drew Lusk for a 22 yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter following a Red Knights turnover.
Graham believed the Red Knights still have work to do. They accrued the most penalties under his tenure they have ever done, he said, most coming in the second half. The Red Knights played without receiver Joe Wilkins and quarterback Ben Pogue.
NORTH FORT MYERS 27, ISLAND COAST 10
IC 0 3 0 7 – 27
NFM 6 14 0 7 – 10
NFM: Fa’Najae Gotay 5 run (no good), 3:27
NFM: Zaquandre White 70 run (no good), 10:12
IC: Kory Curtis 39 field goal, 3:34
NFM: Brandon King 48 pass from Nick Perez (White run), 0:31
IC: Drew Lusk 22 pass from Kory Curtis (Curtis kick), 7:14
NFM: Gotay 5 run (Rio Bailey kick), 3:29
Running — IC, Calvin Smith 9-20, Jerry Cambric 7-32, Kory Curtis 8-minus-32. NFM, Zaquandre White 14-165, Fa’Najae Gotay 11-68, Terry Lindsey 8-13, Luis Alfonso 3-16, Nick Perez 2-minus-4.
Passing — IC, Curtis 10-23-0-69. NFM, Perez 4-8-0-76.
Receiving — IC, Isiah Crawford 5-39, Drew Lusk 1-22, Cameron Howitt 1-6, Smith 1-4, Cambric 2-3. NFM, Brandon King 1-48, Garrett Morgan 1-36, Alfonso 1-minus-8, Blake McPherson 1-0.