BROOKSVILLE - If the emotions of the night weren't evident in Rohan Blackwood's play, they were certainly on display in the final moments of his prep career.
Following Nature Coast's 20-14 victory over Ocala-Lake Weir Friday, as Blackwood collected himself after a lengthy embrace with assistant coach Ed LaRose, only the dreadlocks hanging in front of his eyes could mask the truth.
Maybe this game, a season finale for two teams on the outside of the playoff picture, didn't really mean anything. But to the Sharks, it sure seemed to mean something.
"I'm sad that it's over, but I'm also happy that we got a win," Blackwood said. "All the players played a hard game, the seniors played hard. Everyone knew that we had to win this game, not just only for this season, but just for the school in general.
"We didn't have a pretty good season this year, but we went out with a bang. So I'm happy for that."
The senior defensive end, verbally committed to Wisconsin, was a difference-maker in a game that wasn't truly as close as the score would indicate.
Lake Weir (1-8-1) landed the initial blow on this chilly night at Shark Tank Stadium, scoring on a trick play on the first play from scrimmage.
Quarterback Tyler Rotstein handed the ball off only to receive a pitch back from his running back. He found Josue St. Fleur wide open down the middle of the field for an 80-yard score.
From there the Sharks (4-6) mostly dominated. They just couldn't stop from shooting themselves in the foot, losing three fumbles.
There were other missed opportunities, as well. The Hurricanes failed on an onside kick attempt right after that first touchdown, and Nature Coast started its first possession on the Lake Weir 44.
Despite maneuvering down to the 10-yard line, the nine-play drive stalled when the Sharks couldn't convert on fourth-and-1.
A short punt allowed Nature Coast to begin its second possession on the Lake Weir 37, and this time the Sharks cashed in thanks to DeShawn Smith's 5-yard rush into the end zone at the 4:25 mark of the first quarter.
However, a blocked PAT left the 'Canes in the lead, 7-6. Lake Weir tried and failed on a fake punt at its own 42, and Nature Coast had a short field to work with again.
Smith ran 31 yards on the next play, and quarterback Ryan Quigley immediately followed with a 14-yard rush around left end, zigzagging his way to pay dirt.
The Sharks had a 12-7 lead with 2:17 still to play in the first, but failed to add on with a two-point try.
In the second quarter, Lake Weir recovered a fumble on the Nature Coast 26 and took advantage with 1-yard touchdown dive off a direct snap by running back Alonza Taylor.
Once more the 'Canes were in front, 14-12, with 8:49 to go in the half. It seemed like that was going to hold going into halftime when Nature Coast lined up for a punt with just over a minute left.
Instead the Sharks, playing without long snapper Ryan Roscillo due to a knee injury, hiked the ball to the Blackwood.
The former quarterback hit Andrew Parker downfield for a 48-yard scoring strike, and Smith tacked on a two-point run.
"Coach was talking about how we were going to run it, how one of the outside backers drops back, just one of them, to cover," Blackwood said. "I guess a couple teams have run that play before. I was just looking which one was back. The left one dropped back, so I just dumped it off to Parker and he made it happen.
"It felt good. That was actually the first time that we ran that. We run it in practice every day, but that was actually the first time we ran that in a game, and it worked."
"We do all these things in practice every day," Nature Coast head coach Charles Liggett said. "All week long we work these fakes. You've got to find it. They just brought everything up. So you call it and you pray to Jesus that it works. And he made a good throw and a good catch and Parker showed he's got some speed.
"It's all a timing thing. Bottom line is, when you call a fake like that if it works you're a genius, and if it don't then you look stupid."
The defense made it stick from there in a completely scoreless second half.
Blackwood had two crucial sacks on Lake Weir's final two drives. The first one forced the 'Canes to punt the ball back to the Sharks with 2:27 to play.
Lake Weir got one more chance after Nature Coast turned the ball over on downs on the 'Cane 47 with 58 seconds remaining.
After an incomplete pass and another for minus-2 yards, Blackwood dropped Rotstein for a 5-yard loss. One more incompletion on fourth down gave the Sharks the ball as just 13 ticks still showed on the clock.
"In my mind, I was just thinking I had to close this game out, and that's just what ended up happening," Blackwood said.
"This game right here, I'll remember this for the rest of my life. Going out last play with a sack, I'm grateful for that."
Smith ran 18 times for 111 yards, though the sophomore did lose two fumbles. Quigley, a senior, had 88 yards on 11 carries and completed 7-of-11 passes for 83 yards.
Taylor totaled 16 carries for 99 yards to pace Lake Weir.
Coupled with a 19-12 win over Weeki Wachee last week, Nature Coast at least finished off on a positive note.
"Our goal was to get two wins, not to get two blowouts, so yeah, I'm satisfied with that," Liggett said. "I wish we'd have played better, but all that matters to these kids is the win.
"I thought we did a good job moving the ball. They just started taking advantage of things and when we'd move the ball we'd turn the ball over.
"I think the guys did what they've done all year, they just keep fighting. It'd be great if we could eliminate some of the mistakes that we have, but they never quit."
Nature Coast 20, Ocala-Lake Weir 14
Qtr. Scoring 1 2 3 4
LW 7 7 0 0 - 14
NCT 12 8 0 0 - 20
LW - St. Fleur 80 pass from Rotstein (Venezuela kick)
NCT - Smith 5 run (Lacy kick blocked)
NCT - Quigley 14 run (Maner run failed)
LW - Taylor 1 run (Venezuela kick)
NCT - Parker 48 pass from Blackwood (Smith run)
First Downs 9 20
Atts./Rushing Yds. 34-120 54-283
Comps./Pass/Atts/Int. 5-16-0 8-12-0
Passing Yds. 92 131
Total Offense 50-212 66-414
Return Yds. 3-68 1-5
Punts/Avg. 5-37.8 1-36.0
Fumbles/Lost 4-1 3-3
Penalties 8-65 10-80