Saturday, Apr 19, 2014
Sports

Prep Football Preview: Week 7

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Hernando at South Sumter, 7:30 p.m.

Despite some initial struggles against high-caliber, non-district opponents, Hernando (2-3) finds itself 2-0 within Class 5A, District 6.

But the Leopards will put that clean slate to the test when they travel to Bushnell to face the only other undefeated squad left in 5A-6, South Sumter (6-0 overall, 3-0 5A-6).

Coming off a huge 20-13 win over Nature Coast last week, Hernando has a chance to take sole possession of first place.

"It was real big," Hernando head coach Dwayne Mobley said of defeating the Sharks. "Every win we have now in the district is going to be real big.

"For this little stretch going against Nature Coast, South Sumter, Pasco and Zephyrhills, it's a really hard stretch, and to start off with a win is a big momentum push for us."

The keys, Mobley said, were avoiding costly turnovers and keeping the Sharks from starting with good field position.

It may take another flawless effort to compete with the Red Raiders, ranked 10th in this week's Associated Press 5A state poll.

This will mark the third time the Leopards will face a ranked team this season, and that doesn't count Citrus, not ranked at the time but now 10th in 6A.

The bad news: Hernando hasn't beaten any of those squads so far. Worse, it'll have to go without versatile senior Ra'shaad Hart. He leads the Leopards with 351 rushing yards, mostly out of the quarterback spot.

He suffered a "bad ankle sprain," according to Mobley, and has already been ruled out.

"It's going to be a loss," Mobley said. "But other guys on the team have to step up."

Junior Tyler Kline, Hernando's leading passer to this point, figures to see even more action under center, along with junior John Coleman.

Without a playmaker like Hart, the Leopards will face an even greater challenge against South Sumter.

Hernando has played the Raiders the past two years, though those were not district tilts, and were outscored a combined 93-34.

A regional finalist a year ago, South Sumter has looked the part, scoring 287 points thus far compared to 43 by their opponents.

Last Friday the Raiders handled the team projected to be the district's other powerhouse, Pasco, 38-14 in Dade City.

"They're South Sumter," Mobley said. "They're going to do the same thing, they do it well and they're going to hit you all night.

"They're not one of those teams that only play the first half. They do the same thing and play hard all four quarters. We've got to get our guys up and ready to play all four quarters.

"Every game we play right now is huge. If we can win this game, we'll be undefeated and in first place in the district, which would be really big for us."

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

No sooner did Nature Coast take a monumental step forward by upsetting Pasco two weeks ago, then it was handed a critical loss by Hernando.

Head coach Charles Liggett admits his club "went backward" and now the Sharks (2-3 overall, 2-1 5A-6) are in a precarious position hosting Zephyrhills (4-1 overall, 1-1 5A-6).

While the Bulldogs have already taken on, and fallen to South Sumter, Nature Coast still has the stout Raiders on their schedule.

Considering that, a loss could prove far more crushing to the Sharks' playoff hopes down the road.

"I think for us it's definitely an elimination game as far as the district is concerned," Liggett said. "But my focus with our kids is not the district. Once again, for us it's competing against ourselves and not making mistakes and doing things right."

Running back DeShawn Smith, who scored three touchdowns against Pasco but was limited to three carries last week due to a knee injury, is improving.

Liggett believes Smith will be able to go, particularly at defensive back. Tight end Ryan Roscillo (concussion) hasn't been cleared to return after sitting out against Hernando.

Aside from a 38-15 loss to South Sumter, the Bulldogs have allowed 42 points combined across their other four games.

Before a bye last week, Zephyrhills downed Weeki Wachee, 42-7, and grinded out 377 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.

Devon Brockington had two of those rushing scores plus one on a reception, and Jaylen Pickett ran for 146 yards and a touchdown.

"They've got a lot of talent. I think defensively we can stand our ground with them," Liggett said. "Offensively, we've got to move the ball and we've got to make better decisions and not make mistakes."

Central at Springstead, 7:30 p.m.

Sizzling during a five-game winning streak and approaching a bye next week, Springstead (5-1) has plenty to feel good about as it celebrates homecoming.

A 34-0 triumph over Fivay a week ago was the Eagles' most dominant effort to date, and pushed them to 2-0 within 6A-6.

"I was pleased with last Friday because I felt like we finally played a four-quarter game," Springstead head coach Mike Garofano said. "Hopefully we'll continue that into the bye week.

"It's (homecoming) a distraction. But I think the kids will do a good job of focusing on what matters most on homecoming week, and that's the game."

Central (0-6) once again fell just short of its first victory, losing to Weeki Wachee, 21-20, last week thanks to a missed extra point.

That's the second time the Bears have suffered a one-point defeat, and the fourth time they've had a legitimate shot to win down the stretch.

"Central is a solid team," Garofano said. "Right now they just can't find a way to win. Four of their six games have been real close. They could be 4-2 right now. We're definitely not taking them lightly."

The Bears can still boast senior running back Robbie Bradley, who rushed for 230 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Weeki Wachee, and has run for a county-best 942 yards this year.

"He's going to get his carries," Garofano said. "We'll try to contain him. We need to control the line of scrimmage and fly around. He's going to make guys miss, that's why we need guys to get to the football."

Perhaps the only county player having a bigger year is Springstead quarterback Tyler Mahla. The senior has posted eight rushing touchdowns and run for 669 yards.

He and the Eagles will try to keep the positive momentum as they head down the home stretch.

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.

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

Weeki Wachee (2-4 overall, 1-2 5A-6) put to bed a four-game losing skid by beating Central, but the Hornets encounter a tough foe this week.

Of course, at 2-3 and 0-2 within the district, Pasco doesn't appear nearly as daunting as previously believed, considering the Pirates started the season ranked third in the state.

"They're 2-3, but they've lost to Sunlake, South Sumter and Nature Coast. It's not like they're losing to teams that aren't very good," Weeki Wachee head coach Mark Lee said.

"They were beating Nature Coast for three quarters and Nature Coast had a heck of a comeback and was able to get it done."

The key, Lee said, will be figuring out a way to counter Pasco's tremendous speed.

"We have to execute and secure the ball. We can't have turnovers," Lee said. "I don't care what their record is. They're the best 2-3 team in the state of Florida."

The Pirates were dealt some injuries in their loss to South Sumter last week, most notably sophomore wide receiver Nate Craig. Already one of the top prospects in the state, he'll be shelved for four weeks with a severe ankle sprain.

"They've still got players that are pretty dang-gone good," Lee said. "Obviously he's a special talent. But they've got more than one gun."

Indeed Pasco still has threats such as senior wide receiver Malik Johns (865 all-purpose yards, nine touchdowns) and senior running back Jaquan Clower (320 rushing yards, two touchdowns).

"They're very physical, fast," Lee said. "Defensively they're very sound. They make tackles. You may think you have a seam, but it closes pretty quick."

Marcus Allen will continue to play quarterback for Weeki Wachee while David Tinch nurses an injured shoulder. Allen connected on three touchdown passes of 50 or more yards against Central.

The Hornets will need that type of showing again to give the Pirates a run.

"If you go off paper, I'm sure Pasco would not be 2-3," Lee said. "You've got to play the games and anything is possible, and we know we have nothing to lose.

"No one in the state of Florida expects us to win, I hope except for us. We've got to do everything we can to hopefully put us in a position to have a chance."

cbernhardt@hernandotoday.com

(352) 544-5288

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