PORT CHARLOTTE -- Although it wasn't the way Port Charlotte, hoped its last game would go, coach Jordan Ingman still glowed when he spoke of his 24 seniors following the 30-22 loss to Lakewood Ranch on Friday night.
"We just couldn't make the play at the critical time," Ingman said. "That's not to take anything away from these seniors. They've been the winningest program in school history and they have a lot to be proud of."
Neither team was playoff eligible, so Friday's game didn't mean much in the big picture, but each strived to give its seniors the gift of victory on their last night.
But "just short" was a theme for the season, Ingman said, a sentiment painfully punctuated when Port Charlotte (6-4) scored with 7.9 seconds left to pull within 30-22, only to watch the Mustangs (6-3) recover the onside kick, and kneel as time expired.
"Tonight kind of summed up a lot of things we've gone through," Ingman said. "We fought back, we get close, and then we just couldn't get over the hump."
It was clear early that emotions ran high on both sides. Port Charlotte lost a player to ejection three minutes into the second quarter after a midfield fracas, and the teams had a combined nine personal fouls.
"I think the (penalties come when) you're not as sharp when you have a couple of practices when you're not in the playoff hunt anymore," Lakewood Ranch coach Mick Koczersut said. "And I think those penalties were a result of a lack of discipline from both teams."
It took the Pirates -- down 13-0 -- until late in the second quarter to overcome the adrenaline, but it resulted in first downs on three consecutive plays and their first touchdown.
It was hard-earned: Quarterback Christian Coffelletto was stuffed three times at the 1 before succeeding on his final attempt up the middle to put Port Charlotte on the board with just 6.8 seconds remaining in the half.
The Mustangs scored once in the third, and Coffelletto answered them twice in the fourth. The first was a 1-yard rush that had with it a 2-point conversion by Coffelletto which put the Pirates within 23-15.
James Jeffcoat's ensuing 56-yard onside kick return for a touchdown all but dashed Port Charlotte's hopes, but Coffelletto still had enough wind in his sails to hit Malik Vaccaro-Dixon from 5 yards out
for the final margin.