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Explorer snaps Parrott's eight-year win streak


Published:   |   Updated: October 8, 2013 at 09:18 PM

Sixty-two years ago last week, "The Shot Heard 'Round the World" dominated the sports page headlines.

It was the name given to the game-winning homer by New York Giants outfielder Bobby Thompson off Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca at the Polo Grounds to win the National League pennant on Oct. 3, 1951.

As a result of Thompson's "shot", the Giants won the tense playoff series, 2-1.

Another "shot" heard all around Hernando County occurred Oct. 1 at Springstead's Booster Stadium.

That's when fledgling Explorer K-8 Bobcats trimmed Parrott, 38-20.

The Bobcats' first-ever series win over the Leopards sent a ripple down the spine of middle school aficionados.

Wasn't this the same mighty Parrott gridiron program that entered the 2013 fall campaign with 10 straight Hernando County Middle School Athletic Conference titles? Moreover, 11 county crowns in 12 seasons.

Wasn't this the same stout Leopard program that suffered its last loss on Sept. 12, 2006 at Central High's Bears' Den against host West Hernando, 20-6?

Until last Tuesday, Parrott had pieced together a Hernando County-record 49 straight wins since Leopard head coach Dwayne Mobley benched "several starters due to discipline issues" prior to that 2006 setback.

Third-year skipper Rob Walden watched his Bobcats put up a fierce goal-line stand early in the fourth quarter to preserve a tentative 22-20 cushion. Two late Bobcat scores added the icing to area's biggest upset.

According to Coach Walden, a native of Fowlerville, Mich., Tuesday's win was no fluke.

Didn't the Bobcats return seven starters from last year's first-ever winning program at Explorer (4-3)?

According to Coach Walden, Explorer's finest player, eighth-grade tailback T.J. Holland, aka "The Terminator," utilized his 6-foot, 155-pound frame to rush 12 times for a game-high 226 yards and four touchdowns (70, 45, 25, 20 yards).

Ever-improving 5-foot-10, 150-pound eighth-grade signal caller Randy Morgan "ran in several two-point conversions" while 5-foot-8, 135-pound eighth-grade fullback Kevin Rivera bulldozed the way with several blocks.

At the epicenter of the upset was the Bobcats' O-line led by three eighth-graders: center Cory Fulkerson, left guard Brandon Witkowski and right guard Chris Truluck. At 13, Truluck stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 240 pounds.

The Bobcat defense is led by 5-foot-9, 160-pound middle linebacker Alex Lozada, tackle Klavon Clark and 5-foot-5, 110-pound safety Jeff Cotnoir.

According to Coach Walden, his assistant coaches - Donny Weed (who calls the fifth quarter) and Jason Baroudi (who calls the defense) - are two of the reasons the Bobcats are unbeaten at 2-0.

"We wouldn't be where we're at without those two," shared Coach Walden, a fifth-grade science teacher.

"Before the season, I knew we'd have something special," detailed Coach Walden. "This is by far the best team we've ever had here. This group's work ethic is unsurpassed."

On identifying his team's strengths, "Overall, we're incredibly fast. We've got some sprinters," Walden pointed out. "And we've got some guys that play very physical, they like to hit and they're ultra-competitive.

"The great thing is this group has been on the other side," he added. "They've paid their dues. And they're good character kids. These kids that will make a tackle and then help the players up - it's just really good sportsmanship."

Should the Bobcats finish atop the conference, they'll host the title game again at Booster Stadium on Nov. 5 against the county's second-seeded team. At this point, the Bobcats are not boasting, but are looking forward to a possible rematch against the Leopards.

"Personally, the kids can't wait to play Parrott again," Walden said. "We've never won the (county) title. The parental support has been swelling. Everyone is jumping on board. Even our faculty is energized due to what we've done on the field; it's really something."

Though Parrott is on their third mentor in three seasons, 1990 Hernando High graduate Brad Peters, who played under Mike Imhoff, isn't throwing in the towel on the season.

"The streak had an impact on me as a coach," identified Coach Peters, who has a military background with 21 years in the U.S. Army and is currently employed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Defense in Tampa. "Psychologically, the streak affected the game.

"Because we play all intra-county games, the streak carried over," explained Coach Peters. "It's a big deal to these kids. Most of them had never lost a game at this level."

On Peters' coaching mantra, "Discipline-wise, we're holding the players to a higher level," noted Peters. "If I didn't, I'd be doing those kids an injustice before they reach high school. I'd rather have a non-winning season than play football with a bunch of thugs."

On what the setback has done, "Sure, I didn't want to be the first coach to lose a game here," he said. "And it was 22-20 before they (Explorer) mounted a goal-line stand. After they scored, I saw a few of our kids start panicking.

"Give credit to Explorer - they're well-coached and there is no lack of discipline," he said. "They've got some athletes over there. They also had two weeks to prepare for us."

Coach Peters' original goal was to reach the Nov. 5 title game - that hasn't been altered.

"The title game is what this is all about," he said. "What good is it not to be challenged? I can't say that I'm happy by losing, but I tip my hat to Explorer. Now, we've got to work that much harder.

"Last week's win gives them (Explorer) some momentum. Our job is to get back to the title game," Peters said. "We can't look past anybody and we've got to be ready the next time; that's the task at hand. I'm looking forward to it."

By the numbers: Parrott Leopards Football Win Streak

- Compiled by TONY CASTRO

YEAR W L .PCT

2006 6 0 1.000

2007 6 0 1.000

2008 7 0 1.000

2009 7 0 1.000

2010 7 0 1.000

2011 7 0 1.000

2012 7 0 1.000

2013 2 0 1.000

TOTALS 49 0 1.000

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