Sports notebook: HCA suffers heartbreak in state title game

Photography provided

Hernando Christian Academy's six-man football team competes during Saturday's state championship game in Lakeland. Photo provided

Just 46 seconds separated Hernando Christian Academy’s six-man football team from a perfect season and a state championship Saturday night.
But the Lions ultimately returned home feeling the sting of disappointment, as Lakeland-Geneva Classical Academy scored late to pull out a 39-36 victory at Southeastern University’s Victory Field.
“I felt like our kids played as hard as they could. The breaks just went one way,” HCA head coach David Raley said. “Every aspect of our game played well. It was just two equally matched teams. They scored and time ran out.”

Eagles just short of Kiwanis crown


Photography by Cheryl Clanton

Springstead's Travis Williams tries to lock in a hold on Josh Hagan of Citrus during their 170-pound final on Saturday night. Photo by Cheryl Clanton

BROOKSVILLE – A total of 14 seasons have gone by since Bob Levija last guided the Springstead wrestling team through a regular-season tournament.
On Friday and Saturday at Hernando High, the Hall of Fame mentor was once again at the helm of the vaunted program he built and cultivated for 23 seasons, and the Eagles nearly hoisted a championship trophy in the process.
Springstead ended the 35th annual Kiwanis Invitational with 138 team points, an agonizing 1.5 behind first-place Tampa-Robinson at 139.5.

Taggart, heading to Oregon next season

03 SEP 2016: USF Head Coach Willie Taggert has a word with quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) during the game between the Towson Tigers and the South Florida Bulls at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

The University of South Florida had a hot commodity on its’ hands in football head coach Willie Taggart. After leading USF to their best record in school history and their second straight bowl appearance, Coach Taggart received the attention of some big name schools.

Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens reportedly met with Taggert in Dallas on Saturday, Dec. 3. Then at a Thursday press conference, Mullens introduced Taggert as the newest Head Coach of the Ducks.

USF Bowl Bound

Rocky the Bull at Raymond James Stadium by Michel Curi, flickr

For the eighth time in school history, the University of South Florida is playing in a bowl game. The Bulls earned a trip to the Birmingham Bowl on Thursday, Dec. 29 following a record breaking regular season which saw the team finish with a 10-2 record, the most wins in school history. This is the second bowl game for the Bulls in Birmingham, Ala., the first one being the team’s first bowl victory in 2006 at the Bowl.

Final Four Set for NCAA Football

After a long season, the NCAA selection committee determined the four teams that will compete for the 2016-2017 NCAA Division one National Championship in football. The teams will play in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl and the Playstation Fiesta Bowl for the playoff semifinals on Saturday, Dec. 31, before meeting at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa in the National Championship Game on Monday, Jan. 9.

Sharks stumble early, surge late

Photography by Cheryl Clanton

Nature Coast's Kaine McColley shoots a free throw in Tuesday night's game against Crystal River. Photo by Cheryl Clanton

BROOKSVILLE – It may be early in the season, and the opposing team was minus its leading scorer Tuesday night.
Nonetheless, Nature Coast’s boys basketball team served notice that it’s far from ready to be knocked off its perch atop the district. Hosting Crystal River in a key Class 6A, District 7 clash, the defending district champion Sharks overcame an early deficit to pull away with a 71-59 victory.

Sports notebook: Lady Hornets hand Hernando first loss

Photography by Cheryl Clanton

Weeki Wachee's Taylor Miller goes up for a shot against the defense of Hernando's Kaitlyn Costa-White on Tuesday night. Photo by Cheryl Clanton

It was a busy week for the Weeki Wachee girls basketball teams, with four games on the slate. But in the process, the Lady Hornets picked up a big victory over a county rival.

Hernando takes second at Weeki Wachee

Photography by Cheryl Clanton

Photo by Cheryl Clanton

WEEKI WACHEE – Outside of the last match, it was a pleasant weekend for Hernando at the Weeki Wachee Duals.
The Leopards opened the season by placing second in the two-day tournament, going 7-1 with the only loss at the very end against unbeaten Dover-Strawberry Crest.
“We’re excited. We have a really good dual team. It was fun to see it in action. They did really good across the board,” Hernando head coach David Pritz said. “That last team was just better than us, but we wrestled tough.

Tale of two halves ends in tie

Photography by Cheryl Clanton

Weeki Wachee's Bailey Hypes controls the ball while being persued by Nature Coast's Hunter Reid (10) and Caleb Rojas. Photo by Cheryl Clanton

WEEKI WACHEE – Both Nature Coast and Weeki Wachee had 40 minutes to be happy with on Wednesday night.
Problem for both teams was the Class 3A, District 7 boys soccer match lasted 80, and as a result it concluded in a 1-1 tie.
“We never play for a tie, but it was good to get the tie,” said Nature Coast sophomore Hunter Reid. “We let them control the first half. Came back in the second half, switched our formation and really, we showed them up. We possessed. We played the ball. We held the ball in the second half.”

Sports notebook: Vonada staying on at Hernando

Photography by Cheryl Clanton

Bill Vonada will return as Hernando's head football coach next season. Photo by Cheryl Clanton

Turns out Hernando High won’t be in the market for a new head football coach after all. A week after Bill Vonada said he wouldn’t be back with the Leopards after three seasons, the school announced his return.
“We’re going to just do everything we can to move forward and put together the best program we can for the coming year,” Vonada said.
Out of respect to his players, Vonada declined to go into specific details about the chain of events that led him to temporarily leave the program.