Thursday, Jul 31, 2014
Sports

Prep Football Preview: Week 3

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Springstead at Nature Coast, 7:30 p.m.

Many seasons have come and gone since the last time Springstead pulled off a victory over Nature Coast.

After the Eagles (1-1) took the first-ever meeting between the two schools in 2005, the Sharks (0-1) have owned the series, reeling off seven straight wins.

To put that into perspective, the current crop of seniors were in elementary school - fourth grade to be exact - when that streak began.

Just when Springstead seemed poised to end its skid last year, carrying a 9-0 record into the regular-season finale against Nature Coast, the Sharks came up with a thrilling 14-7 triumph at Booster Stadium.

Not that Nature Coast needed another reason to pick itself up off the mat following a rugged start to the season, but it has one: keeping that mastery alive.

"Of course there's an added incentive," Nature Coast head coach Charles Liggett said. "And I have reminded our kids that a lot of kids came before them and paved the way. And these guys have an obligation to uphold that and they need to give everything they can to do so, just like it's huge motivation on the other side to stop that.

"Somebody Friday night is going to be over-the-top excited."

On the other side, even with a huge district opener against Sunlake looming next week, Springstead head coach Mike Garofano admitted this one has a little extra juice.

"I think the kids are always up for this game," Garofano said. "It's a rivalry game and we haven't beaten them in a few years. The kids are anxious. They want to get them this year.

"They're (the Sharks) going to come ready for this game. They could be 0-and-whatever we could be whatever we are; it's the team that wants it. They're going to want it, they're going to want that first win and they want it at our expense."

Both teams have already suffered humbling losses at Citrus, Nature Coast in the preseason, 47-7, and Springstead in Week 1, 42-14.

The Eagles bounced back to shut out Weeki Wachee last Friday, 14-0. The Sharks fell to Crystal River in the first week, 14-8, before having a bye last week.

Despite beating the Hornets, Springstead fumbled four times and lost two. In their two regular-season tilts the Eagles have a committed an uncharacteristic six turnovers and 15 penalties.

"We've just got to hold on to the football," Garofano said. "We've got to win the turnover battle this week and the remaining weeks of the season."

Running back Daniel Wright is coming off an outstanding 30-carry, 230-yard performance, and quarterback Tyler Mahla already has three rushing touchdowns.

Still, the Eagle offense has yet to exhibit the crispness that led to a district championship last fall.

Garofano has referred to the first three games prior to the start of the Class 6A, District 6 slate as preseason, making for an interesting approach to such an emotional contest.

"I don't know what it is with Nature Coast that they've had our number," Garofano said. "We've just got to go get it. Nothing is going to be given to us. We've got to go out and play Springstead football, be intense and play physical football. That's what I'm looking for.

"It means a lot. The rivalry is great and all. We want to win, but we want to be peaking heading into district play."

For the Sharks, they're trying to turn things around before their season heads in the wrong direction. Liggett talked about his team toeing the line of which way it'll go.

"The bye week was good to relax and get our minds back," Liggett said. "We're young and I just think our identity as a team is young and still learning what it means to play varsity football.

"I think at Springstead right now they're feeling like 'All right, here we go.' I think they feel pretty confident in the way things have played out. But we're always prepared for them. Even when we're struggling we've been able to make things happen. There's no reason it shouldn't be a tough game as usual."

Nature Coast is still without senior defensive end/wide receiver Rohan Blackwood, who committed to Wisconsin earlier in the week. Blackwood, ejected against Citrus, is serving the final week of his suspension.

Starting quarterback Jamison Carnegie, after sitting out against Crystal River with an ankle sprain suffered in the Citrus game, will dress, though senior Ryan Quigley should receive get his second start, Liggett said.

Outside linebacker Sedrick Burkes is out after tweaking the knee he had surgery on while playing for Tampa Catholic last year. His replacement, Kyle Voyles, is set to have stitches taken out of his finger Friday morning, leaving him questionable.

Those injuries aside, Liggett admitted the Sharks have their kinks to iron out even as the heat turns up a notch tonight.

"It's a big rivalry. I like to refer to it as the 'epic rivalry,'" Liggett said. "It's the type of rivalry that makes sports great.

"But having said all that, for us at Nature Coast, it's inverted. It's about us getting things right and making plays and doing things right."

This game will be carried live on WWJB 1450 AM and 103.9 FM, and streamed live at wwjb.com, beginning with the pregame show at 6:45 p.m.

Hernando at Citrus, 7:30 p.m.

Counting the preseason, Hernando (0-1) has had more cancelations than games played.

Heavy rain forced the Leopards to pull the plug on last Friday's home game against Jacksonville-Bishop Kenny.

Two weeks earlier, a threatening forecast caused them to do the same to an exhibition versus River Ridge.

So with only the season-opening loss to Jacksonville-Bolles under Hernando's belt, and the district opener at Weeki Wachee scheduled for next week, the Leopards are feeling a little behind the curve.

"The guys have got their heads up," Hernando head coach Dwayne Mobley said. "I just wanted more playing time so we can get our guys together.

"We played pretty good against Bolles, but we made a lot of mistakes. Now we want to get those mistakes corrected so we can get started. That's hard when you're not consistently playing."

The host Hurricanes (2-0) certainly won't make it any easier. After trouncing Nature Coast and Springstead, Citrus defeated Dunnellon last week, 14-8.

This week the 'Canes received four votes in the Associated Press 6A state poll, behind two teams from their own district (6A-5), Ocala-Vanguard (nine votes) and Gainesville (six).

"We're not Nature Coast, we're not Springstead," Mobley said. "I think we match up better with Citrus than the other teams do.

"They've got athletes and we've got athletes, too. I expect them to come out there and play hard, and we'll come out and do the same."

Right tackle Connor Foradas is "probably out," according to Mobley, with the knee injury suffered in practice last week. Cornerback Bryce Mobley is out six weeks after fracturing his foot against Bolles.

The Leopards will try to overcome those losses as they hurriedly prepare for 5A-6 action.

"We want to go into the district full-go," Coach Mobley said. "We don't want us to mess around and be making mistakes.

"To get a win on the books is real big. We've really got to get a win."

Weeki Wachee at Hudson, 7:30 p.m.

So far, Year 2 for Weeki Wachee on the varsity level has gone fairly well.

First the Hornets (1-1) started off with a 28-6 win over Interlachen, and then they hung tough in a rain-soaked loss to Springstead.

On paper, Weeki Wachee has a strong opportunity to notch its second victory, making a short trip to Pasco County to take on the Cobras (1-1), who are led by second-year head coach Mark Kantor.

"To be honest, we didn't have that great a week of practice," Weeki Wachee head coach Mark Lee said. "I'm anxious to see how we play on Friday. Coach Kantor is doing a great job building a solid program there. I'm hoping our kids come ready to play."

Both programs were 3-7 in 2012 and are still very much in a building mode. However, Springstead had little trouble with Hudson in the preseason, winning 28-0, and the Cobras needed a late rally to overcome Central in the second half, 32-23 two weeks ago.

Weeki Wachee has displayed an improved defense thus far to support what has been at times an explosive offense, though the weather and miscues put the clamps on last game.

"In the spring game a lot of people were talking, 'You gave up 49 points,'" Lee said. "But we were letting a lot of guys play, not letting anyone play both ways, and we found out a lot of guys were not ready to play at the varsity level yet.

"We made some adjustments and the kids on defense have really bought in and gotten a lot better."

The Hornets figure to want to build momentum heading into their first-ever meeting with Hernando next Friday.

"Offensively (the Cobras) run the ball hard, and defensively they get after it," Lee said. "They've got some guys that will fly around and they're not afraid to stick their nose in the dirt. We need to go over there ready to play."

Central at Poinciana, 7 p.m.

Twice now, Central has nearly tasted victory, carrying leads into halftime against Hudson and The Villages.

Instead the Bears are 0-2; victims of comebacks by their opponents, the latest on Saturday when Buffaloes overcome a 12-0 deficit in a game delayed a day due to rain.

The unquestionable bright spot for Central has been senior running back Robbie Bradley. He followed up his 210-yard showing in Week 1 by totaling 183 yards and a touchdown on just 11 carries.

Poinciana (1-1) took down Celebration last week, 39-7, yet the Eagles' struggles run deeper than Central's. They're 10-110 since 2001, and on their seventh head coach - newly hired Jeff Mathis - in nine years.

cbernhardt@hernandotoday.com

(352) 544-5288

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