Ida Baker's comeback was just enough. Charlotte's came up just short.?Baker's Bulldogs held off the Tarpons 24-21 Friday when Austin Roberts' 34-yard field goal fell just short with 10 seconds left to play.?Baker (8-1) rallied from a 14-6 third-quarter deficit to lead 24-14 on Filander Barahona's 30-yard field goal with 5:43 to play, then had to hold off a furious rally by Charlotte (5-3).?"The whole second half was back and forth," Bulldogs coach Brian Conn said. "That's a very good football team. You hold your breath every time they throw it up because they've got guys who can go catch it. Our defense bent and didn't break all night."?Brennan McGill hit Dwight Reynolds on a 35-yard touchdown pass with 4:32 left for the Tarpons. Charlotte got the ball back at its own 44 with 1:33 to play, then drove down to the Bulldogs' 18 to set up Roberts' attempt with 16 seconds remaining.?It wasn't the first time in the fourth quarter that things went wrong for Charlotte inside the Baker 20.?Dwayne Reynolds fumbled after a 6-yard pass reception on the Baker 11. Wyatt Griffith scooped up the ball and returned it to his 45.
"They had run a comeback route," Griffith said, "and when I saw that, we had a cloud call to it. The corner(back) had broken down on it and I saw the ball start coming out. I reached down to scoop it up."
"I didn't even know what happened until I saw him running down the sideline," Conn said.?On the next play, Baker's Johnny Garrow took a handoff and appeared to be going nowhere. Suddenly he turned up the sideline and raced 55 yards for a touchdown.
"I was just waiting for that hole to open," Garrow said. "I just read my linemen."?Garrow had 137 yards rushing and two scores for Ida Baker.
"That's the great thing about our team," Conn said. "It seems like every week someone else is making the big plays."
Baker stopped Charlotte on downs at the Bulldogs' 38 on the Tarpons' next possession, setting up a drive that ended in Barahona's field goal.
"We played hard. Our kids fought," Charlotte coach Binky Waldrop said. "We had chances in the second half to make plays. We didn't."?The Bulldogs can wrap up a playoff spot next Friday in the team's season finale against District 6A-12 opponent East Lee County.
"We win or we're done. It really is a playoff game for us," Conn said. "We've gotta get it. The guys know. We're not worried about what their record is, what ours is. It's win or go home."
The Tarpons, meanwhile, face arch-rival Port Charlotte with first and second place in District 7A-11 on the line.
"We're playing for a district title next week," Waldrop said. "We've got to shake it off and get ready for a great week of practice and get ready to play next week."
Amari Washington's 54-yarder gave Charlotte a 14-6 lead with 7:13 to play in the third period. The Bulldogs rallied to tie the score when Sage Attwood hit Roy Denson for an 8-yard touchdown, then connected with Geordan Hoagland for a two-point conversion with 2:23 left in the quarter.
Baker had a golden chance to score first when Tyler Iverson intercepted a pass and returned it to the Charlotte 17 on the first play of the second quarter. However, the Tarpons held Baker at the 4.?Charlotte then put together a 96-yard drive, capped by Washingon's 5-yard run.?Ida Baker scored on the next possession, with Garrow's 36-yard run setting up his 1-yard touchdown. A bad snap on the extra point attempt left Charlotte with a 7-6 lead.?The Bulldogs had more trouble with the kicking game on the first half's final play. Charlotte blocked Barahona's 44-yard field goal attempt to preserve the one-point Tarpons advantage at intermission.
Charlotte 0 7 7 7 - 21
C - Washington 5 run (Roberts kick).?
IB - Garrow 1 run (kick failed)
IB - Denson 8 pass from Attwood (Hoagland pass from Attwood)
IB - Garrow 55 run (Barahona kick)?
IB - FG, Barahona 30?
C - Reynolds 35 pass from McGill (Roberts kick)?