The North Port Bobcats are in their 12th year as a varsity football program. They're still looking for their first season with a winning record, and their first playoff berth. But if new Head Coach Billy Huthman has a repeat performance of his tenure at Fayette High (Missouri) – his previous head coaching gig – then the Bobcats are on their way to reaching those milestones.
Now in his second year with North Port – first as head coach after serving as offensive coordinator in 2012 – Huthman is tasked with a similar challenge he's already faced. At the helm of Fayette High for eight seasons, Huthman led that team to the playoffs for the first time in fifteen years. Though Huthman doesn't put any extra pressure on the playoff push, stating that his team merely takes the season game by game, he acknowledges how big of an accomplishment it would be.
“It'd be great, not only for the team, players and coaches, but the community also” he says. “It'd show them the foundation we've laid.”
Behind key playmakers on offense, the Bobcats boast 143 points scored en route to a 2-2 record this season. The team returns senior QB Trent White, multifaceted senior RB Leonard Faison and senior WR Sylvester Augustin. Meanwhile, the defense has shown its weaknesses, particularly in the Bobcats' most recent loss against Palmetto in which they surrendered 56 points. Going forward, Huthman believes the defense's success will hinge on consistency.
“They need to step up. Everybody needs to take care of their jobs. We need to be consistent.”
Standing in their way of a winning season – and perhaps a trip to the playoffs – are three more district games, starting with a visit to the 3-2 Lakewood Ranch Mustangs this week. The Mustangs are coming off of consecutive victories, and will enjoy returning to their home field after playing the last four on the road. They're also ranked second in 7A District 10 – two spots ahead of North Port – giving this matchup added importance.
The teams don't have much immediate history, save for a 14-13 Lakewood Ranch victory back in 2008. But Friday could be the beginning of a new rivalry, in what will be the two team's first of many games since North Port joined the district.
Kick-off at Lakewood Ranch for our game of the week is set for 7:30 p.m. ABC 7 will bring you additional coverage of the game on Friday's 6 p.m. broadcast, with stats and highlights on Football Friday Night at 11:15 p.m.