PUNTA GORDA — First, there was a lightning delay. Then came the lighting delay, that plunged Tarpon Stadium into darkness.
When the lights came on, Charlotte looked much the same — like a team that should contend for a playoff spot when the Tarpons get all the kinks worked out.
Elijah Mack rushed for 79 yards and two touchdowns and the Tarpons overcame a bevy of errors to defeat North Port 34-14 on Friday night. It was a game in whcih Charlotte received a little from everybody — whether that was Brennan Simms, Trystan Beasley or Trevor Laurent.
But there was plenty to improve on.
“There were some bright, bright spots, but there were way too many mistakes,” Charlotte coach Binky Waldrop said.
Charlotte (1-0) committed three turnovers and nine penalties, including one block in the back that nullified a punt returned for a score.
North Port (0-1) outdid Charlotte in the penalty department, earning 22 penalties for 185 yards. Even worse, the Bobcats made penalties at bad times. One personal foul erased a touchdown pass to Stantly Thomas in the first half.
“I’m disappointed, I’m just disappointed,” Detwiler said. “I think we’re better than what we showed here tonight. And they wore us down.”
Simms was lackluster in his Charlotte debut, completing 8 of 19 passes for 72 yards with a touchdown and an interception. But the passing dimension to the Tarpons’ attack kept the Bobcats’ defense from focusing on the run.
And the Tarpons were good on the run: Beasley and Laurent added scores on the ground for Charlotte.
North Port came alive late when Van Der Veer threw two touchdown passes to Thomas in the fourth quarter. Those touchdowns looked nice on Thomas’ stat sheet as he finished with four catches for 160 yards. But it was too little, too late.
More often, the Bobcats struggled to block for Van Der Veer and Mike Innello at quarterback. Charlotte sack North Port quarterbacks seven times.
Both teams missed field goals. North Port’s Conner McKinley left a 41-yard try short, and Charlotte’s Joey Behling hooked a 43-yard try left.
The contest didn’t have an auspicious start as a lightning put the game under delay as early as 5:30 p.m., a situation that didn’t allow fans or players into the stadium.
For the next three hours, the only excitement came in the form of lightning flashes across the darkened skies. There was even talk of canceling the contest if it could not be started by 9:15 p.m.
The storm passed. The lightning horn gave an all-clear at 8:53 p.m., and the gates opened to the fans shortly thereafter. North Port and Charlotte both ran onto the field to start warm-ups.
Then the lights went out, as the captains for both sides lined up for the opening coin toss. After an unnerving darkness covered the field, the lights came back on for a 9:41 p.m. kickoff — the latest in Charlotte history. Last year’s contest against Lely started at 9:40 p.m.
CHARLOTTE 34, NORTH PORT 14
North Port 0 0 0 14 — 14
Charlotte 7 7 7 13 — 34
C — Elijah Mack 7 run (Austin Roberts) 8:48.
C — G’Vonte Price 32 pass from Brennan Simms (Roberts kick) 1:30.
C — Trystan Beasley 10 run (Roberts kick) 3:39.
C — Mack 8 run (kick fail) 8:57.
C — Trevor Laurent 45 run (Roberts kick) 7:35.
NP — Stantly Thomas 48 pass from Christian Van Der Veer (Michael Magnapara kick) 7:27.
NP — Thomas 72 pass from Van Der Veer (Magnapara kick) 4:23.