Irma sacks county’s prep football schedule

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Irma sacks county’s prep football schedule

Nature Coast quarterback Fabian Burnett sets up under center during last Friday's game against South Sumter. Photo by Cheryl Clanton

Photography by Cheryl Clanton

The third week of the prep football regular season promised an exciting matchup of county rivals Nature Coast and Springstead.
But Mother Nature has spoiled all the fun, at least temporarily. With Hurricane Irma threatening just about every area in Florida, Hernando County followed the trend of surrounding counties by canceling school – and all other activities – for Friday.
However, the county took it a step further on Tuesday by shutting everything down for Thursday through Saturday. Other Tampa Bay area counties such as Hillsborough and Pinellas took similar action, though neighboring Citrus and Pasco only closed school on Friday.
That means all four football games scheduled for Friday night, including those that had already been rescheduled for Thursday, were at the very least postponed and mostly canceled.
Since district play doesn’t begin until next week, none of this Friday’s contests need to be made up. In fact, the Springstead at Nature Coast tilt is the only one that stands a chance of eventually being played.
Both teams have a bye in Week 11, the last week of the regular season, and there stands a very high probability that the game will be played on Nov. 3. However, Springstead’s administration has opted to hold off on a final decision until after Irma has passed, according to athletic director Dustin Kupcik.
For the Sharks, this is already the second time weather has wreaked havoc on its schedule. They couldn’t even get in a full quarter in two weeks ago at Bradenton-IMG Academy White before it was rained out.
“It’s an odd situation. I don’t know if anybody has been in quite the same situation before,” Nature Coast head coach Cory Johns said. “It’s just a little bit more time for the kids to have off than we’d really like.”
Both teams are considered realistic contenders in their respective districts, so the scheduled bye week was by design to provide rest and could ease the impact of possibly playing in a tiebreaker that Monday. Instead, it may end up featuring one of the most taxing games of the year.
“We’ll have to get up three weeks in a row because we play Hernando the week before,” Johns said. “We’ll just have to get up for those games. It’ll be a challenge to keep up the intensity for three straight weeks if we make the playoffs.”
Weeki Wachee is also facing a unique scheduling dilemma because it has a bye next week. The Hornets were set to visit Fivay on Friday, and head coach Jacob Gray said he very much wanted to find a way to reschedule but the Falcons were not receptive.
Gray is working diligently to find a replacement game, ideally for next Friday. The problem, he said, is many schools are still getting games in this week and won’t have the opening on their schedule.
“We better be healthy and ready to go against Central (in two weeks),” Gray said. “We’ve got to do what the county says in lieu of the hurricane. I get that. The number one priority has to be safety. But if we can’t find anybody to play next week, we’ll get ready for Central.”
Speaking of the Bears, they won’t be traveling to Gainesville-Eastside this week or at any other point this regular season. Hurricane Matthew cost them a game last year, though Central eventually played in a bowl game at Hudson.
“It’s turning into the norm. Last year we lost one also due to the weather,” Central head coach Chris Sands said. “We are just trying to keep focus with our kids and continue to push through the adversity. We are trying to turn the situation into a positive. Now we have more time to prepare for our first district opponent.”
Hernando was scheduled to visit Land O’ Lakes, but that game has also been canceled.
Follow Chris Bernhardt Jr. on Twitter @cpbernhardtjr.