After its season opener against IMG Academy White lasted less than a quarter because of rain, the last thing Nature Coast wanted was more weather-related delays.
On a Friday night when seemingly every area game was impacted by lightning, the Sharks managed get their home opener versus South Sumter off without a hitch, collecting a 33-7 victory.
“We played pretty well. The first half wasn’t so good. Offensively, we picked it up in the second half,” Nature Coast head coach Cory Johns said. “Overall, it was a good night. It could have been better, but there are always things to work on. So I’m glad those things happened.”
The game was tied at 7-7 going into halftime, with Michael Weston scoring his first of three touchdowns for the Sharks in the first quarter. The Raiders (0-2) knotted it up with just a few seconds left in the half.
Weston punched in a pair of touchdown runs in the third quarter, while quarterback Fabian Burnett and Lenkel Smith both found the end zone in the fourth. Weston finished with 15 carries for 193 yards. Burnett went 4-of-5 passing for 81 yards and added 74 rushing yards on six runs.
Typically one of the better teams in Class 4A, the South Sumter is considered by many to be in a rebuilding mode this season. But Johns was not taking this win for granted.
“They played with a lot more pace like they used to do,” Johns said. “The first half, we weren’t quite as prepared for that as we needed to be. They have a lot of young guys. They’re going to be good as those guys get older.”
Central rebounded from a Week 1 loss at Springstead with a 49-31 triumph in its home opener against Tavares.
Quarterback Izzy Zena was a duel threat, connecting on 14-of-25 passes for 205 yards, with three touchdowns against an interception. He also ran the ball 17 times for 136 yards with a couple of scores. Isaiah Brown caught eight passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns, while Jonathan Allion hauled in five catches for 73 yards and one score.
On the defensive side, Foster Hawthorne totaled 13 tackles including six for a loss, plus three sacks. Hayden Dodgen chipped in 12 tackles and R.J. Harrington had 10.
“We came out playing really hard,” Central head coach Chris Sands said. “Tavares is a really good team. They put on a whooping on The Villages the week before. So we knew they had talent. But our game plan worked. We had them on their toes the entire game.
“The big difference was the weather. Our game plan going into Springstead was to throw the ball and we got stuck playing in the rain so we couldn’t do that. We’ve got talent on the outside. We wanted to utilize them and make sure they get their touches.”
Springstead moved to 2-0 with a 31-20 win at Weeki Wachee, getting three touchdown runs from Randy Morgan. The Hornets (0-2) pulled to within 25-20 in the third quarter on a touchdown pass from Vaughn Sykora to Shaun Young.
On Tuesday, Springstead also had a big victory over Weeki Wachee in volleyball. The Lady Eagles took a 25-21, 25-22, 25-19 triumph, and added a 26-24, 9-25, 26-24, 25-23 win at Sunlake on Thursday in their first Class 7A, District 8 match of the season. The Lady Eagles are now 5-0 overall.
The Lady Hornets moved to 5-1 on Thursday with a 25-18, 25-17, 26-24 nod over Lecanto before heading to a weekend tournament at Orlando-Lake Highland Prep. Brooke Sereda had 14 kills and Seytia Hill tallied 12 against the Lady Panthers, while Amberlyn Werkmeister recorded 39 assists.
Nature Coast’s boys cross country team finished fourth (259) and the girls took fifth (188) for the county’s best showing on Saturday at the Lecanto High Invitational. The Lady Sharks’ Mia DeRonda ran a 21st-place 21:57.27 for the highest individual finish on the girls side, and Nature Coast’s Ian Escamilla came in 22nd in 17:59.49 for the county’s best boys showing.
Follow Chris Bernhardt Jr. on Twitter @cpbernhardtjr.