At the beginning of the season, no one predicted either Charlotte or Carol City to be playing in the state semifinal.

Well, this is the situation we are in as the Tarpons (12-0) are set to host Carol City (9-3) in Friday night’s Class 6A state semifinal. The winner plays either Lake Gibson or Navarre in the state title game next Saturday at 3 p.m. ET.

Charlotte is averaging 40 points per game on offense while allowing a measly 14.3 points per game defensively. After finishing 12-1 last season with a 35-0 region final loss to Naples, the Tarpons finally got over the hump.

As for Carol City, the Chiefs are scoring nearly 31 points per game and surrendering just a hair under 10 points per game. They redeemed a regular season loss to district rival Northwestern with a 34-27 win over the Bulls in a region semifinal a couple of weeks ago.

The Tarpons are back in the final four for the first time since 2002 while the Chiefs will be playing in their first state tournament since 2004.

How they got here:

Carol City beat Mainland 33-7. Charlotte beat Fort Myers 27-24 in double overtime.

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Both of these teams have faced adversity throughout the season and the playoffs.

In a tremendous region final at Ft. Myers, Charlotte erased a 14-0 halftime deficit behind four touchdowns from senior athlete D’Vonte Price. He scored both second half touchdowns and two in overtime, including a game-winning run from the wildcat formation in the second overtime.

Carol City had to battle in the region semifinal against Northwestern. The Chiefs were tied at 13 at the break, but they went on to outscore them 21-14 over the final 30 minutes. In the other two playoff games, Carol City outscored its opponents 72-7.

Freshman cornerback Jeremiah Harvey is one of the few starting underclassmen for Charlotte. He has an interception on the season and against Ft. Myers, he came up with a pair of clutch pass breakups.

Harvey wants his team to have the go hard or go home mentality in this game.

“We need to just play our game and make no mistakes,” Harvey said. “They are a great team.”

Another young player in this game is Carol City sophomore quarterback Lorenzo Floyd.

He says he’s expecting a balanced game from his offense.

“This football season has been full of ups and downs,” Floyd said. “Coming into the season a goal was to be undefeated but we had a couple losses and we’ve learned from it. This team is battle tested and more hungry than ever but most of all this season I’ve got 55 brothers that will put it all on the line for the betterment of the team.”

Harvey and the Tarpons will be tasked with slowing down not only Floyd but running back Camron Davis, wide receiver Kevaughn Dingle and wide receiver Terrance Horne.

Davis had three touchdowns a week ago while Dingle and Horne each had one.

“We are a senior heavy team, we have great athletes everywhere,” Harvey said. “It’s gonna be a great game. I can’t wait to play.”

Charlotte running back Maleek Williams and quarterback D’Andre Hicks are two key seniors alongside Price that make the Tarpons offense hard to predict. All three athletes line up in the backfield often.

Floyd and the Chiefs don’t need to talk about how big this game is. He says everyone knows what it is at stake and it is showing in practice this week.

“The mindset from the youngest freshman to the oldest senior is that we have a one game season and this can be everyone’s last time putting on pads,” Floyd said. “So we need to leave no regrets.”

Charlotte’s last home loss came against Ft. Myers in the 2014 region semifinal. Since then, the Tarpons are a perfect 14-0 there.

“It means everything. We are making history,” Harvey said. “Our fans are great and they deserve to see us win.”

Carol City is battle tested with a 6-2 record on the road. Floyd says he doesn’t think that will be an issue this week at Charlotte.

“We’ve been on the road all year,” he said. “We have adapted to not being at home. If we come hitting on all cylinders offense, defense and special teams and everyone gives their all we should get the results we want.”

Bottom line

It will come down to who wants it more. Charlotte has been superb at home and in late game situations while Carol City has shown up time and time again as a visiting team.

Charlotte’s three-headed monster of Williams, Hicks and Price is a ton to deal with on offense. Harvey loves being one of the young guys among an experienced defense. The Tarpons don’t slack on that side of the ball either.

Carol City has playmakers all over the field. Junior tight end/linebacker Yassir Abdullah is someone to keep an eye on. Last week against Mainland, he had two sacks.

A trip to the state championship in Orlando is up next. Who will come out the winner in this game?

Both Charlotte and Carol City are here for a reason. You have to give a slight edge to the Chiefs even on the road, but don’t ever rule out the Tarpons, just look at what they were able to do to rally back last week.

Photo credit: Sun Coast Sports

Jake Perper is the scout for Prep Sports Scouting. Make sure to follow along for all the updates on Twitter: @JakePerper.

If you have any questions or comments feel free to write below or email Jake at jake.perper@hotmail.com.

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