ENGLEWOOD — After having its pregame classic canceled by lightning last week, Lemon Bay High School had to sit and wait for more than two hours to play its first game of the season on Friday.
The game against Port Charlotte started around 9:15 p.m. after a lightning delay, and both teams entered the field in a steady rain, which dissipated after a few minutes.
The extra wait didn’t seem to initially hurt the Mantas, who came out with two first-half touchdowns. But the Pirates charged back and took a 25-18 victory.
Lemon Bay started the game with a failed onside kick and a quick three and out, but took advantage of a muffed punt by Port Charlotte’s Christian Coffelletto on the ensuing drive. The Manta Rays started from the Port Charlotte 23-yard line, moved the ball into the red zone and completed the drive with an 8-yard run by Anthony Marinola.
The Pirates answered early in the second quarter with a 26-yard field goal by Andres Hernandez to make it 6-3.
The Manta Rays extended their lead just before halftime with a 13-play, 60-yard drive that culminated with a one-yard touchdown run by Sean Connaghan. After a failed two-point conversion, Lemon Bay took a 12-3 lead into halftime.
In the second half, the Manta Rays took advantage of more Port Charlotte errors on a wet evening, first pinning the Pirates at their own 1-yard line after a fumble, then benefiting from an offsides penalty — the third by Port Charlotte —on another scoring drive. Connaghan scored his second touchdown of the night from the 7-yard line as his teammates helped push a big scrum into the endzone.
The Pirates quickly responded with a drive that included four plays of 10 or more yards and scored their first touchdown of the game when Anthony Stephens threw a 30-yard strike to Paulsin Heitter. Port Charlotte added a two-point conversion as Stephens scrambled around and scored to cut the Lemon Bay lead to 18-11.
Stephens stayed hot on the next possession as he and Martin Luther took turns running the ball to move the Pirates from their own 6-yard line into Lemon Bay territory. Stephens broke open a 47-yard touchdown run, where he broke multiple tackles, to give Port Charlotte its first lead of the game at 25-18.
The Pirates held on for the victory despite a highlight-reel 31-yard catch by Nic Mostyn, who managed to get a foot inbounds during the Manta Rays second-to-last drive. The drive concluded when Mostyn fumbled trying to accept a double-reverse lateral pass from Brian McGill.