JACKSONVILLE – Early mistakes ruined any chance Hernando had of staying close to defending Class 3A runners-up Jacksonville-Bolles Friday night, resulting in a 44-0 drubbing at the hands of the host Bulldogs.
“We started slow and flat,” said Leopards coach Bill Vonada. “We have got to find a way to turn that switch on early.”
Hernando’s defense, spearheaded by end Tyson Libengood and linebacker Brad Ellis, did a creditable job of holding back the potent Bolles offense, which returned last season’s entire backfield.
A tackle for loss on third down by Ellis led to a missed field goal by Bolles’ Alex Lucansky in the first quarter, and the sophomore’s fumble recovery thwarted another Bulldogs drive in the second quarter.
Libengood, who also had a tackle for a loss, sacked quarterback Joe Edden to force Bolles’ only punt of the game.
But mistakes and turnovers by the Leopards’ offense allowed the Bulldogs to take a 23-0 lead into the intermission.
Two plays after the missed field goal, Bulldogs linebacker Zac Crosby was unblocked on a blitz and sacked Hernando quarterback Tyler Kline, forcing a fumble.
The ball bounced into the Leopards end zone, where running back D’Angelo Fagin recovered it, resulting in a safety and a 9-0 lead for Bolles with 5:26 left in the first quarter.
After holding the Bulldogs on their next drive and picking up a first down on a sideline catch by Derrell Holland, a fumbled snap led to a two-play, 15-yard Bolles scoring drive capped by a sweep around the left side by Dexter Carter Jr. that increased the hosts’ lead to 15-0.
“The plan was for a freeze,” explained Vonada afterward. “We were not supposed to ever snap the ball. We were just looking to pick up five yards (by forcing an offsides), and instead we gave them two points and the ball.”
Earlier, a well-thrown ball by Kline went off of the hands of Jacob Valentino, resulting in a diving interception by Bulldog safety Ahman Ross.
Spending most of the evening on the field, the defense wilted. Bolles running back Christian Bermudez ran for 94 yards and a touchdown, all in the first half. Backups E.J. Porter and Jeffrey Serville added rushing touchdowns while Edden threw for 116 yards and two scores.
The Bulldogs outgained Hernando, 346-50, holding the Leopards to four first downs by moving defenders around before the snap and blitzing frequently.
“They’re schematically sound, and what I am impressed with is their execution,” said Vonada. “They don’t have all those footballs on the walls (markers for state championships) by accident.”
Fagin led the Leopards with 22 yards on 12 carries, while Kline completed 4-of-13 passes for 23 yards.
The Leopards hope for better results when they return to Jacksonville next Friday to face Bishop Kenny, another defending district champion.
“We know we can play better, and we will,” said Vonada.
Jacksonville-Bolles 44, Hernando 0
Qtr. Scoring 1 2 3 4
HER 0 0 0 0 – 0
BOL 16 7 14 7 – 44
BOL – Bermudez 17 run (Lucansky kick)
BOL – Safety (Fagin downed in end zone)
BOL – Carter Jr. 12 run (Lucansky kick)
BOL – Porter 18 run (Lucansky kick)
BOL – Moorer 6 pass from Edden (Lucansky kick)
BOL – Westbrook 27 pass from Edden (Lucansky kick)
BOL – Serville 1 run (Lucansky kick)
First Downs 4 11
Atts./Rushing Yds. 26-27 30-156
Comps./Pass/Atts/Int. 4-13-1 12-25-0
Passing Yds. 23 190
Total Offense 39-50 55-346
Fumbles/Lost 2-1 1-1