Vikings best Red Knights in showdown, 21-14
The Southwest Florida game of the week certainly did not disappoint, as Bishop Verot outlasted North Fort Myers 21-14 in a battle from start to finish at Moody Field.
Viking senior quarterback Nick Perez was the difference for the road team, as his second half performance propelled Bishop Verot (8-2) into the win column, and all but secured a playoff berth.
“They played hard all night,” said Verot Head Coach Josh Vogelbach. “North’s got a great team, hats off to them. I’m proud of our guys for playing a hard-fought, physical game.”
North (7-3) opened the scoring on their first possession with a methodical 13-play, 75-yard drive, capped by a Parker O’Dell 1-yard rushing touchdown, giving the Red Knights an early 7-0 lead.
Both teams traded punts on four straight possessions, until the Vikings cracked the scoreboard halfway through the second quarter.
Senior quarterback Jacob Azizi threw a screen in the flat to the speedy Tequon Chatman, who made one Red Knight defender miss and took it up the left sideline for a 75-yard score. Chatman’s speed was on full display during the catch-and-run touchdown that tied the game.
“He does such a great job,” Vogelbach said of Chatman. “He’s such a great leader. I can’t say enough great things about him, he’s awesome. He stepped up in a big game.”
Neither team found the scoreboard again before the half, though the Vikings came out hot after the break, this time, with a new man under center.
Vogelbach decided to give North a different look and play Perez for the majority of the second half. The head coach said the senior gives Verot more of a running threat from the quarterback position.
“You know, we just wanted to establish the run a little more,” Vogelbach said. “Nick is a great runner, a hard-nosed kid — just wanted to give (North) a little change up. Nick and Jake are both phenomenal kids, they both complement each other. I can’t say enough about those two and how they handle every situation.”
Perez wasted no time getting the Verot offense going — which was a bit stagnant in the first half — rushing for 36 yards and completing a pass that gave Verot a goal-to-go opportunity on his first drive. Vikings running back Brandon Peck drove his legs and scored from 1-yard out to put the road team on top 14-7 early in the third quarter.
Once again, both teams traded punts until Verot found themselves with solid field position on a drive that started on the Red Knight 40-yard line.
Vogelbach had a bit of trickery in his back pocket, as the Vikings successfully executed a hook and ladder play. Perez threw to wide out Tyree Cherry, who lateraled to Chatman, who scampered into the end zone from 35 yards out (40 yards total on the play) to extend the lead to 21-7.
Chatman finished with 139 all-purpose yards and two scores.
“Their linebackers were creeping up to the line a little bit, and we thought Quon (Chatman) could get on the edge — the corner was off,” Vogelbach said of why he called the play. “We saw an opportunity, we took a chance.”
This is the second time Verot has successfully scored on a hook and ladder play this season.
The Red Knights would not go quietly and without a fight. O’Dell connected with freshman wide receiver Atavious Weaver for an 11-yard score with 4:25 remaining in the game to make it a one-possession game. O’ Dell finished 6-for-13 with 52 passing yards and a touchdown, and added 92 yards on the ground.
Red Knight senior running back Christian Morgan also chipped in 72 rushing yards on 21 carries.
North got the ball back with 2:40 to play, but could not muster a first down.
Perez and Verot ran out the clock for the victory.
Vogelbach has a serious defensive unit this season and said the team will only go as far as they take them.
“I saw the same thing they do every week, they’re phenomenal,” Vogelbach said of his defense. “Offensively (we were) kind of sloppy. But, a win’s a win.”
North Head Coach Dwayne Mack was obviously disappointed in the loss, but is hopeful his team still showed enough this season to earn a playoff bid.
“We didn’t execute,” Mack said. “There are some things we can fix. We could have put some more points on the board. They have a pretty good defense. At the end of the day, we’ll be alright.
“I’m hoping we can get into the playoffs. If we’re eighth, we go down to Naples, and it’ll be a rematch of last year.”
It was a special game for Perez, who said it meant a lot for him to have his breakout performance on a field he used to call home.
“It was a tough battle. I used to play on this field, so it’s personal for me,” Perez said. “When I got in the second half, I just had that mindset of, ‘We have to win this one.’ This game just means a lot, and I was happy I was able to help my team any way I could.”
Perez ran for 78 yards and threw for 54 more and a touchdown, all in the second half.
“This game, it just felt different,” Perez said. “I told the coaches, ‘You’re going to see a different me.’ My mindset just took over — ‘We’ve got to win as a team. This game is important to all of us.’ It’s a battle of the 239 so we just had to show up, and show out.”
It’s looking like Bishop Verot will receive a bye in the first round of the playoffs, while North will have to wait and see until Sunday what their fate holds.
“We’ll let our kids rest up, heal up,” Vogelbach said. “We’ve got some things we need to work on — fundamental stuff. So we’ll use next week for that.”
The FHSAA playoff schedule will be released Sunday.
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BISHOP VEROT 0 7 14 0 — 21
NORTH FORT MYERS 7 0 0 7 — 14
NFM: Parker O’ Dell, 1-yard run (Brett Reed kick), 5:46
BV: Jacob Azizi, 75-yard pass to Tequon Chatman (Deaglan Camron kick), 7:44
BV: Brandon Peck, 1-yard run (Camron kick), 8:19
BV: Nick Perez, 40-yard pass to Tyree Cherry (5 yards), lateral to Chatman (35 yards) (Camron kick), 1:46
NFM: O’ Dell, 11-yard pass to Atavious Weaver (Reed kick), 4:25