Nature Coast

College signings spread out across the county

Photos provided

Springstead softball shortstop Abby Oliver with principal Carmine Rufa during her signing with Warner University. Photo provided

Back in February, Central’s football team dominated National Signing Day with four football players officially inking with college programs.
That quartet included the state’s leading rusher, De’Vonta Smith (Division I Appalachian State), defensive back Dominique Walker (D-I Florida Championship Subdivision FAMU), linebacker Josh Rivera (D-II Lincoln University in Pennsylvania) and safety Sam Garner (NAIA Webber International).
Those were far from the only signings among the six county schools, however, and they weren’t the only signees from Central, either.

NCT alum Breida making most of minicamp

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Former Nature Coast running back Matt Breida during the San Francisco 49ers' organized team activity at their training facility in Santa Clara, Calif. on Wednesday. AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

For Matt Breida, the dream of playing in the NFL hasn’t quite been realized, but he’s coming awfully close.
The 2013 Nature Coast graduate has been in San Francisco the past few weeks, participating in a rookie minicamp with the 49ers, the running back receiving his first taste of life as a professional football player.
“This is a big opportunity,” Breida said. “Being an undrafted free agent, I’m hoping to prove everyone wrong and prove I belong in the NFL.”

Rivera’s state title school year’s top story

Springstead 113-pounder Richie Rivera finishes off a takedown against Lleyton Taylor of Riverdale in their quarterfinal match in Class 2A state meet action. Rivera won 5-0. Photo by Matt Pfiffner/Citrus Chronicle

With the school year coming to a close in Hernando County, the time has come to reflect back on the 2016-17 prep sports season.
Success was spread out, with all six FHSAA-sanctioned schools boasting at least one district championship team, and the county had an Elite Eight squad in all three seasons, fall, winter and spring.
Here are the top three stories from the past 10 months of action:
1. Rivera overcomes adversity for state crown

Sports notebook: New football coaches make debuts

Photography by Cheryl Clanton

New Weeki Wachee head coach Jacob Gray during Thursday's spring game against Anclote. Photo by Cheryl Clanton

In the long run, this week’s spring football classics will likely be forgotten footnotes for the upcoming prep football season.
But for Nature Coast’s Cory Johns and Weeki Wachee’s Jacob Gray, those exhibitions marked the first time those two new head coaches roamed the sideline at their respective posts.
Johns and the Sharks traveled to Palm Harbor University on Tuesday, since Nature Coast held its graduation on Friday night, and cruised to a 44-14 victory.

Sharks hang tough, fall just short at Bishop Moore

Photography by Cheryl Clanton

Nature Coast junior J.P. Gates struck out 11 batters in six innings and homered against Bishop Moore in Tuesday's regional semifinal. Photo by Cheryl Clanton

The Nature Coast baseball team rode a red-hot offense to a district championship repeat and just the second trip to the Sweet 16 in program history.
But perennial state title contender Orlando-Bishop Moore Catholic managed to cool off the Sharks’ bats in Tuesday night’s Class 5A, Region 2 semifinal. Still, visiting Nature Coast certainly held its own, but struck out 16 times and allowed the winning run to score on a wild pitch in the bottom of the sixth inning to fall, 2-1.

Sharks gain regional redemption, advance to Sweet 16

Photography by Cheryl Clanton

Nature Coast's Zach Funkhouser hit a solo home run in the Sharks' 7-3 win over Lake Highland Prep. Photo by Cheryl Clanton

Only one Hernando County prep baseball team survived Tuesday’s first round of regionals, and for Nature Coast it was also about gaining a measure of redemption.
The Sharks found themselves hosting Orlando-Lake Highland Prep in a Class 5A, Region 2 quarterfinal, just as they had last year when they allowed four runs in the seventh inning in a 5-3 loss.
This time around, Nature Coast took care of business. Even after giving up two runs in the top of the first, the Sharks rallied right back and pulled away for a 7-3 victory.

Hernando roughs up rival, heads to Elite Eight

Photography by Cheryl Clanton

Hernando leadoff hitter Josey Sims gets a bunt down during Tuesday's regional semifinal against Nature Coast. Photo by Cheryl Clanton

BROOKSVILLE – Back on March 30, Hernando High’s softball team had dropped four straight the past two seasons to Nature Coast, and were three outs away from pushing that streak to five.
Then the Lady Leopards scored three times in the top of the seventh inning that night, rallying for a 3-2 victory, and everything changed. They followed that with a 4-0 win in the Class 5A, District 7 title game on the Lady Sharks’ home field on April 27.

Sports notebook: Eagles repeat with blowout win

Photography by Cheryl Clanton

Springstead's Joey Delgatto throws to the plate during Wednesday's 6A-6 semifinal versus Lecanto. Photo by Cheryl Clanton

It was no secret that Springstead’s baseball team entered the Class 6A, District 6 Tournament as the prohibitive favorite to repeat as champion.
But the Eagles certainly didn’t fall short of those expectations this week, recording two blowout wins to collect another first-place trophy.
“We just played real well,” Springstead head coach Shawn Laferty said. “Defensively, we made one error. That’s been our M.O. all year. We played good defense, had good pitching and hitting when we need to.

Bats heat up as Sharks take district title

Photography by Cheryl Clanton

Nature Coast's baseball team celebrates after the final out of Friday night's 5A-7 championship game. Photo by Cheryl Clanton

Nature Coast’s baseball team came into the Class 5A, District 7 Tournament seeded third behind county rivals Hernando and Central respectively, having gone 1-3 against those two in the regular season.
Furthermore, the Sharks opted to use ace lefty J.P. Gates in a first-round 12-1 win over Gulf on Tuesday, leaving him unavailable the remainder of the tournament.

County softball teams go 3-for-3 in region quarters

Photography by Cheryl Clanton

Springstead pitcher Kama Woodall, who threw a perfect game, readies for a pitch in the batter's box during Wednesday's regional quarterfinal. Photo by Cheryl Clanton

SPRING HILL – Three Hernando County prep softball entered regional play on Wednesday, and all three will be back in action for next Tuesday’s semifinals.
That’s the situation after Hernando, Nature Coast and Springstead all recorded quarterfinal wins to advance to the Sweet 16.
For the Lady Eagles, seeking their second straight trip to the Elite Eight after repeating as Class 6A, District 6 champions last week, it was another day at the office for senior pitcher Kama Woodall.

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