INVERNESS - Hernando High fared better than county brethren Nature Coast and Springstead taking on Citrus.
But in the end, the Leopards suffered the same fate on their trip to Inverness Friday night.
Hernando held an explosive Hurricane offense to one touchdown during the opening half, yet could never get its own attack going as Citrus pulled away for a 26-6 victory.
The 'Canes had beaten Nature Coast in the preseason, 47-7, and Springstead in Week 1, 42-14, and received four votes in the most recent Associated Press Class 6A state poll.
"We didn't play well. We played decent in the first half to keep them to 6-0," Hernando head coach Dwayne Mobley said. "The other team kept fighting and we started making silly penalties. Doing silly stuff and making silly penalties, it hurt us.
"They actually went almost the length of the field just in penalties. If you want to be a good team, that can't happen. So we're going to go back, get with our players and make sure they're doing what they're supposed to do and come out next week ready to play."
The Leopards (0-2) were flagged 12 times for 122 times, compared to six for 75 yards for Citrus (3-0).
Hernando additionally turned the ball over five times, losing three fumbles and getting picked off twice. That negated a pair of fumble recoveries by the Leopards.
The two teams mishandled the ball so much early that the first quarter featured a combined nine full possessions, and one play in a 10th.
Still, the 'Canes showed off their big-play capabilities in the passing game to get out in front. Quarterback Deion Moore split two defenders on a 44-yard toss down the right sideline to Desmond Franklin with 2:06 to go in the opening quarter.
A missed point-after attempt left it 6-0, the score that would hold all the way through intermission.
"We had to make an adjustment at the half," Citrus head coach Rayburn Greene said. "They were doing something up front with stacking the box where we had to kind of adjust our blocking schemes a little bit to get power going.
"They were catching us from the back side. Their guys were running through on our pulls and we had to leave a guy home to take care of that. Once we did that we were able to get the run going."
Chase Holton recovered a fumble for the 'Canes on the second play from scrimmage in the third quarter.
Citrus then went 38 yards on five plays plus a penalty, finishing off the short drive with a Javian Clark 5-yard touchdown run at the 8:41 mark and taking a 13-0 lead.
Franklin picked off a pass less than a minute into the fourth quarter and returned it 39 yards to the end zone. A bad snap on the PAT left it 19-0.
Breon Whaley added a 1-yard scoring rush with 5:02 to play before the Leopards finally responded on their last possession.
Ra'shaad Hart ran 61 yards, then hit Troy Grant for a 19-yard touchdown pass on the next play. Hernando fumbled the snap on the 2-point attempt.
Take away those two plays and the Leopards were held to 128 yards of total offense and nine first downs.
"Our 3-5 defense is predicated on bringing pressure," Greene said. "Our defensive line is small. We try to get in the backfield and create pressure, and I think that was the difference tonight.
"They hurt us on a few things, but for the most part we felt like they wouldn't be able to drive the length of the field on us. They might hit a big play or two, but we didn't feel they could drive on our defense."
Mobley admitted Hernando having only played once thanks to two rainouts (one in the preseason) had an impact, though nonetheless said his team must play smarter.
The Leopards open up their 5A-District 6 slate at Weeki Wachee next Friday.
"We're not that injured, that's a good thing," Mobley said. "We just got to get ready to play the district.
"We've got a tough district this year. We've got Weeki Wachee, then we get a break, and then we've got four tough teams back-to-back-to-back-to-back. We've just got to get ready. We've got to get the kids ready to play."
CIT - D. Franklin 44 pass from Moore (Marsden kick no good)
CIT - Clark 5 run (Marsden kick)
CIT - D. Franklin 39 interception return (Marsden run failed)
CIT - Whaley 1 run (Marsden kick)
HER - Grant 19 pass from Hart (2-point attempt failed due to fumbled snap)
Atts./Rushing Yds. 33-144 47-213
Comps./Pass/Atts/Int. 5-13-2 6-11-0
Total Offense 46-208 58-303