Central finished off its most successful regular season in nearly a decade Friday night with a 38-18 home victory over Anclote.
Once again, senior De’Vonta Smith was front and center, and head coach Chris Sands has no problem with that. Smith carried the ball 31 times for 376 yards, scoring six touchdowns.
Sands feels Smith has been disrespected locally by those attributing his production to his high usage within the Bears’ offense.
“He’s a kid that worked extremely hard, not just on the field but in the classroom, to get where he is,” Sands said. “It’s sad that people want to downplay what he’s done. It’s a such a big accomplishment. It really is sad that people are taking away from what he’s doing right now.
“Coming into the season, we knew how good De’Vonta was. It’s not about a one-man show and spreading the ball around and all that bull crap. It’s about winning football games.”
The Bears (6-3) have done that more than any season since going 6-4 in 2007 – the last time they finished with a winning record.
Against Anclote, Central jumped out to a 12-0 lead behind touchdown runs of 1 and 9 yards by Smith in the first quarter. After Braxton Johnson scored twice for the Sharks to tie it, Smith added a 57-yard touchdown in the final minute of the half to make it 18-12.
Smith also had a 1-yard and 75-yard scoring run in the second half, as well as an 89-yard interception returned for a touchdown as part a 10-tackle defensive performance. Jakari Jones chipped in 11 tackles, while Josh Rivera had nine tackles and picked off a pass. Foster Hawthorne tallied nine tackles and two sacks.
As for Smith, he surpassed 6,000 yards for his career and now sits at 2,829 this season, along with 35 touchdowns. Despite playing in only nine games due to a Week 2 cancelation, he finishes the regular season as the state’s leading rusher, by 544 yards over Cottondale’s Javontai Hall, who has played in 10 games.
He’s also two ahead of Hall for the state lead in touchdowns. However, while Hall’s season will continue into the playoffs, Smith and the Bears have just a bowl game left this Thursday at Hudson, starting at 7 p.m.
“De’Vonta is the most humble, hard-working kid I’ve ever coached and it’s really sad that people are trying to take that away from him,” Sands said.
Hernando closed out its season with a 30-14 win at Ridgewood, in a game added to the schedule late last week.
Quarterback Scott Bierwiler ran the ball six times for 100 yards and a touchdown for the Leopards (4-5), while Jacob Butts had 16 carries for 89 yards and David Hale Bronson amassed 52 yards and a touchdown on 11 rushes.
“It was good to finish on a positive note,” said Hernando head coach Bill Vonada, who on Tuesday hopes to be elected to the county’s school board. “We got the seniors one last game and sent them out as winners.
“We said at the beginning of the year, we felt if we stayed healthy we could compete with everybody on our schedule. We did stay healthy and we competed every single game. We played teams tough right down to the end and showed a little bit of improvement.”
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Class 2A FHSAA Finals for boys and girls golf were held at Mission Inn Resort and Club in Howey-in-the-Hills. The Nature Coast girls finished 12th, while the boys came in 15th.
The Lady Sharks, who totaled 804, were paced by junior Skylar Muscianese with an 85-84—169 over 36 holes. Alexis Dross had a 97-92—189, followed by Haley Neuhausen (121-98—219), Alexa Dono (116-120—236) and Dawn Posey (112-135—247).
For the boys, with 774, senior Chris Felts shot a 100-86—186. Mickey Dono posted a 99-92—191, Eric Forest a 96-99—195, Glen Richard a 104-98—202 and Kevin Giardino a 113-106—219.
In Saturday’s cross country FHSAA Finals at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee, Hernando’s boys placed 16th in the 2A race with a team score of 427.
Junior Trevor Foley finished in 28th with a time of 16:28.18. Teammate Ryan Bell came in 55th (17:04.07) and Ross Stalcup ran a 17:52.72 in 112th. Seth Wilson was 152nd with a 18:29.88 and Wesley Wilson was 154th behind a 18:30.81. Central freshman Rayna King posted a 20:07.74 to earn 45th place in the 2A girls race.
Finally on Saturday, the 2A-Region 3 swim meet took place at The Long Center in Clearwater, and Hernando County swimmers who qualified left hoping to earn at-large berths into the following Saturday’s state meet.
Springstead’s boys tied for seventh with 108 points, with Zack Starz’s fifth-place 50.04 in the 100-yard freestyle as the highest individual placing. He was also seventh in the 50 free with a 22.86. A.J. Borg finished sixth in the 100 butterfly in 58.24.
The Lady Eagles were ninth overall at 94. Dakotah-Rae Chanthachoumpha came in sixth in the 100 backstroke (1:07.74) and eighth in the 200 IM (2:25.86).
Follow Chris Bernhardt Jr. on Twitter @cpbernhardtjr.