PORT CHARLOTTE - There was no doubt in Mariner coach Chris Siner's mind who the aggressor was Friday night in the Tritons' non-district matchup at Port Charlotte.
It wasn't Mariner. Port Charlotte's front manhandled the Tritons on both sides of the ball, gaining 237 yards on the ground and limiting Eric Russaw to 86 yards on 22 carries as the Pirates sent a jam-packed Homecoming crowd home happy with a 29-13 victory.
"The defensive line was the best we've seen all year," said Siner. "We tried to run, but we couldn't block them."
Ian Bush and the much improved Port Charlotte front four blasted through the Tritons' front all night, punishing any ballcarrier, while the offensive line opened gaping holes for the Pirates' three-headed running attack.
Sophomore tailback Keon Suber gained 114 yards on 12 carries, and Teddy Spikes added another 92 for the Pirates, who have enjoyed a renaissance this season under new coach Jordan Ingman.
The Pirates (5-2) scored on the game's opening possession, going 63 yards in nine plays. Suber gained 56 yards on the drive before senior James Romulus went the final two yards to give Port Charlotte a 7-0 lead.
Mariner (2-4) looked like it would get a break late in the first quarter when Malik Williams recovered a Matt Samson fumble in Pirates territory. However, sophomore runningback Eric Russaw coughed it up two plays later, with Erik Heitter recovering for Port Charlotte.
Mariner's offense struggled in the first half on the ground, gaining just 31 yards. It came alive after halftime, driving 85 yards on 12 plays and holding the ball for six minutes. Russaw dove in from a yard out to cut the lead in half.
Trailing 23-7, the Tritons got their passing game going. Jaylan Mitchell caught a 22-yard scoring strike from Joey Lantz to make the score 23-13 after the two-point run failed.
The Pirates put the nail in the coffin in the final minute when Suber pushed through on a 12-yard scoring run to complete the scoring.
The Tritons (2-4, 0-2 district) invade Cape Coral (2-4, 1-1 district) next Friday night.
Mariner 0 0 7 6 - 13
Pt. Charlotte 7 7 6 9 - 29
PC - James Romulus 2 run (Bakogiannis kick)
PC - Romulus 18 run (Bakogiannis kick)
M - Russaw 1 run (Justin Kuchle kick)
PC - Keon Suber 8 run (kick blocked)
PC - FG, Brion Ashley 33
M - Jaylen Mitchell 22 pass from Joey Lantz (run failed)
PC - Suber 12 run (kick fail)