LAKEWOOD RANCH — Heading into last Friday’s district game against Punta Gorda Charlotte, Lakewood Ranch coach Shawn Trent knew handling the Tarpons’ size, speed and strength would be a tall order for the Mustangs.
With three of the area’s most prolific players in quarterback Kyle Midgett, running back Michael Bellamy and wide receiver Alexander Mut leading the Charlotte offense, Trent knew his players were going to be challenged.
But the Mustangs had faced formidable opponents throughout the season, including Braden River, Southeast and Manatee, and at times had success. But when the Tarpons marched 50 yards down the field for a touchdown on their opening possession, it became apparent Charlotte was the most explosive team the Mustangs had faced all season.
The Mustangs struggled to find an answer for the Tarpons, who racked up 370 yards of total offense, scoring touchdowns on five of their eight possessions, in route to a 49-0 rout of the Mustangs in Class 4A-District 11 action Oct. 23.
It was Lakewood’s worst loss of the season.
“I said going in that I thought they were the best team we’ve played all year,” Trent said. “They’re talented and they play hard.”
With the loss, Lakewood falls to 4-4 (1-1) on the season, while Charlotte improves to 7-1 (2-0).
Offensively, Lakewood struggled to move the football as Charlotte held the Mustangs to just six first downs. After throwing for 189 yards and a pair of touchdowns last week, senior quarterback Reggie Lindsey only completed 6-of-20 passes for 37 yards.
Charlotte took a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter when Midgett connected with Joseph DeGaeta for a 15-yard score. The Tarpons reached the end zone once again to close out the first quarter on a 15-yard run by Bellamy, who rushed for 111 yards on the night.
The Tarpons further extended their lead on a 20-yard touchdown from Midgett to Nickolas Stephenson. Charlotte padded its lead in the final two minutes, 49 seconds of the first half, scoring two touchdowns without its offensive unit ever touching the ball.
Charlotte blocked a Zach Larson punt and recovered the ball in the end zone for a score. Mut intercepted Lindsey on the Mustangs’ next possession and ran it back 44 yards, giving Charlotte a 35-0 halftime lead.
Defensively, the Tarpons kept Lindsey and the Mustangs off-balance all night, holding Lakewood to only 95 yards of total offense. Junior running back Taryn Laws rushed for 59 yards on 15 carries, the majority of which came in the second half.
“We couldn’t do anything on offense, and we didn’t make plays on defense,” Trent said. “It usually doesn’t work out very well when that happens.”
Luckily for Lakewood, its season isn’t over yet. The Mustangs and Tarpons entered the game tied for first place in the district. With the loss, Lakewood drops into a second-place tie with Palmetto.
Following a bye week, the Mustangs will meet the Tigers Nov. 6 to close out their district season. The winner of the game between Lakewood and Palmetto automatically will clinch a spot in the regional playoffs as the district runner-up. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
After an 0-3 start, the Tigers have won three of their last four games, including a 42-3 victory over Port Charlotte last week, whom the Mustangs beat 42-6 earlier this season. Palmetto will host Naples Gulf Coast tomorrow night before their key district game with Lakewood next week.
The Mustangs will use the bye week to prepare for Palmetto, which could prove favorable for Lakewood. Lakewood will need to move the ball offensively and play lights out defense if the Mustangs are going to come out victorious in a game with definite playoff implications.
“It all comes down to one game,” Trent said. “We’ve got to play. Tonight, we didn’t come out to play. I take full responsibility. It’s my fault.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].
C 14 21 7 7 — 49
LR 0 0 0 0 — 0
C — Joseph DeGaeta 15 pass from William Midgett (Chase Meyers kick), 8:22
C — Michael Bellamy 15 run (Meyers kick), 8.1
C — Nickolas Stephenson 20 pass from Midgett (Meyers kick), 4:08
C— Hunter McCarthy 10 blocked punt return (Meyers kick), 2:49
C — Alexander Mut 44 interception return (Meyers kick), 1:33
C— Midgett 1 run (Meyers kick), 3:31
C — Stephenson 20 pass from Midgett (Meyers kick), 8:32
Rushing — Lakewood Ranch: Taryn Laws 15-59, Reggie Lindsey 5-(minus 1). Charlotte: Bellamy 18-111, Stephenson 7-45, Midgett 2-10, James Terrell 1-(minus 1), Darion Shine 2-(minus 9).
Passing — Lakewood Ranch: Lindsey 6-20-37-1. Charlotte: Midgett 12-20-214-0.
Receiving — Lakewood Ranch: Jake Carlton 3-19, Octavious Washington 1-13, Damen Gilbert 1-5, Daniel Clifford 1-0. Charlotte: DeGaeta 4-73, Shine 1-50, Stephenson 2-40, Mut 3-27, Bellamy 2-24.