Prep Football

Sports notebook: Central overcomes miscues

Photography by Alice Mary Herden

Weeki Wachee quarterback Alec Cromie drops back to pass in Friday night's game against Hudson. Photo by Alice Mary Herden

Led by star running back De’Vonta Smith, Central has perhaps its most talented roster in recent memory, with hopes of turning a corner and competing for a playoff spot.
But it has become apparent that the Bears must find a way to reduce their self-destructive tendencies. After battling severe penalty problems in the preseason and Week 1 losses to Clermont-East Ridge and Springstead, Central had reason to celebrate on Friday thanks to a 21-7 victory at Fivay.

Owens lifts Sharks over Springstead

Photography by Cheryl Clanton

Nature Coast running back T.J. Owens attempts to shed the tackle of a Springstead defender during Friday night's game. Photo by Cheryl Clanton

SPRING HILL – T.J. Owens couldn’t deny that Friday’s game had a little extra meaning. He was returning to the field he had previously called home throughout his prep career, but in the opponent’s uniform.
The senior running back produced a standout performance for Nature Coast as it paid a visit to county-rival Springstead, rushing 21 times for 169 yards and scoring two touchdowns in a 28-7 victory.

Sports notebook: Hermine wreaks havoc

Photography by Alice Mary Herden

Central running back De'Vonta Smith takes to the air while carrying the ball in Week 1 against Springstead. Photo by Alice Mary Herden

The official track of Hurricane Hermine will show that the storm made landfall in the Big Bend area, but it surely managed to leave its mark on Hernando County.
It washed out four days’ worth of prep athletic events and practices, including the entire Week 2 football schedule.
Four games, all non-district, were on the slate, most notably a meeting of county rivals Springstead and Hernando. Though the sun finally poked its head out as skies cleared in the county on Saturday, the prior deluge left fields at Ridgewood, Nature Coast and Hernando unplayable.

Central’s Smith ready for the spotlight

Photography by Alice Mary Herden

Central senior De'Vonta Smith rushed for 2,193 yards and 19 touchdowns last season. Photo by Alice Mary Herden

De’Vonta Smith ran for 2,193 yards and 19 touchdowns last season. Those numbers certainly are worthy of attention, yet he performed in relative anonymity throughout the 2015 campaign.
He ranked second in the state in rushing yards during the regular season, and still ended up fifth despite not having the opportunity to perform in the postseason.
So why didn’t the Central running back garner more headlines? It had to do with that one player in front of him in the stat rankings, who just happened to be from the same county.

Haygood’s role expanding for Sharks

Photography Cheryl Clanton

Nature Coast senior quarterback Brian Haygood will be asked to lead the Sharks this season. Photo by Cheryl Clanton

Nature Coast played its first official game in the post-DeShawn Smith era on Friday night, and had to be pleased with the results.
The Sharks went down to Bradenton-Southeast and left with a season-opening 33-14 victory, in a game where no one on the roster rushed for more than 60 yards, yet five different players carried the ball at least five times for no less than 24 yards.
Meanwhile, quarterback Brian Haygood completed 5-of-10 passes for 108 yards, tossing one touchdown (a 58-yarder to Gilbert Delgado) against one interception.

Outlook, expectations changing at Central

Photography by Alice Mary Herden

Photo by Alice Mary Herden

There’s something different about Central’s football team heading into this new season. In fact, there’s a lot of things different.
On paper, there’s a different talent level, and a much different roster size. There’s a different mentality, and yes even different expectations. The only thing left is to produce a different outcome.
It has been roughly a decade since the Bears were realistically considered a threat on the North Suncoast, but now local coaches are quietly dubbing them a team on the rise.

Expectations remain high for Sharks

Photography by Cheryl Clanton

Nature Coast head coach Justin Worden during a recent practice this month. Photo by Cheryl Clanton

DeShawn Smith is gone. The nation’s leading rusher and scorer graduated following his historic senior season at Nature Coast, and surely took the Sharks’ hopes of repeating 2015 with him, right?
That’s the perception the Nature Coast football battles as it heads into a new campaign, exacerbated by a poor showing in the spring, a 37-2 loss to Palm Harbor University.

Wright focused on leadership role

Photography Cheryl Clanton

Springstead quarterback Jordan Wright is prepared to lead the Eagles into the 2016 season. Photo by Cheryl Clanton

Jordan Wright left no wiggle room in evaluating his performance this past Thursday, in Springstead’s 24-13 preseason football loss to Hudson.
The senior quarterback was 4-of-14 passing for 31 yards with two interceptions, though he did run for a touchdown. Later that night he took to Twitter to vent his frustration.
“I have to play better no questions asked,” Wright tweeted out.
His perspective hadn’t changed a couple days later, the exhibition leaving a sour taste heading into the start of the regular season this Friday.

Eagles want to build on late-season momentum

Photography by Cheryl Clanton

Springstead head coach Mike Garofano enters his fourth year at the helm. Photo by Cheryl Clanton

Springstead hopes 2015 proves to be the aberration, not the new normal. If the Eagles can continue with what they did the last three games of that season, this could go down as a rebound year.
Between 2012-13, Springstead pieced together one of the finest two-season runs in local history, going a combined 20-4 with a pair of district titles and the county’s first trip to the Elite Eight in 2013.

Hernando’s Williams settling in at linebacker

Photography by Cheryl Clanton

Hernando's Harry Williams holds the ball during a recent practice. Photo by Cheryl Clanton

One look at last season’s Hernando High football stats tells the story of where the defense is at as it heads into the 2016 campaign.
Austin Sternberger, who paced the Leopards with 76 tackles; he was a senior. How about Tyson Libengood, right behind with 72 tackles? He was a senior, too. So was Brock Buchanan (62 tackles), Beck Buchanan (54) and Bruce Warren (50).
That’s Hernando’s five leading tacklers from a year ago having moved on to the next step in life, leaving behind a defensive unit that must find a way to replace all that production.

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