CRYSTAL RIVER In their annual spring game, the Hernando Leopards showed some promising signs heading into the 2013 campaign with a 34-0 win over host Crystal River Friday night.
One glaring Pirate weakness in particular was capitalized on by the Leopards, who had a clear advantage in size and strength over Crystal River, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
Hernando finished with 191 yards rushing on 37 carries, scoring five touchdowns on the ground.
Starting quarterback Ra'shaad Hart rushed for 77 yards on 10 carries, and Mondrell Brown found the end zone twice on four rushes.
All night, Hernando rushers broke tackles and dragged Crystal River defenders with them upfield.
The Leopard lead was just 7-0 after two quarters, as Hernando went scoreless after its first possession of the game, which concluded with a Justin Roberts 2-yard touchdown run after Jeremiah Jackson broke loose for a 53-yard dash on a third-and-long to preserve the drive.
The Pirates' defense stepped up, and finished with five sacks of Hernando signal callers on the night, as the Leopards are introducing three new offensive linemen.
But Hernando's first drive of the second half started at the Pirates' 32-yard line, and ended with an 8-yard rushing score from Brown.
Its next possession began even deeper, at the Crystal River 23. Brown again hit pay dirt, dragging tacklers up the gut for the majority of the 18-yard score, making it 21-0. Quarterback John Coleman and Eddie Eastham each added rushing touchdowns.
The Leopards controlled possession throughout, amassing 14 first downs to Crystal River's three.
Crystal River's best opportunity came toward the end of the first quarter, but ended on a failed fourth-down conversion at the Leopards' 10-yard line.
Also, down 14-0 midway through the third, Pirates quarterback Collin Ryan sent a pass toward Ty Reynolds from Hernando's 28, but it glanced off Reynolds' hand and into the arms of waiting Hernando cornerback Troy Grant for the interception.
Hernando head coach Dwayne Mobley, while pleased with the performance, suggested his team is capable of much more than what was shown.
"We haven't really shown our weapons. We have got a lot that we can do this year," said Mobley. "As long as these guys do what we ask them to do, I don't think we should have a problem."