WEEKI WACHEE - The first varsity meeting between Nature Coast and Weeki Wachee started off heavily in the home team's favor.
But the host Hornets could not maintain a 9-0 lead built in the first quarter, and the Sharks answered with three straight touchdowns to pull out a 19-12 victory Friday night.
That broke a four-game losing skid for the visitors, who hadn't won since their shocking upset at Pasco on Sept. 27.
"We've had a rough year," Nature Coast head coach Charles Liggett said. "Got a win tonight; so our new goal was 'Let's get two wins (to end the season).' So one's down, we've got another one to go.
"They fight and they work every day. They do everything they're asked to do. There's been some downside and tonight they got an upside.
"I think they're maturing in the sense that they fully understand; OK, it's 19-12, it's not what they wanted. They would rather get more, but hey, a win's a win."
The Sharks (3-6 overall, 3-3 Class 5A, District 6) took advantage of Weeki Wachee's (3-7 overall, 1-5 5A-6) struggling run defense, though it was a workmanlike effort.
Nature Coast rushed 62 times for 201 yards - numbers skewed by two high snaps on punts resulting in a combined 50 yards lost.
Leading rusher DeShawn Smith was barely factor, used sparingly after the first two offensives series. The coaching staff felt the sophomore may have been concealing an injury, Liggett said. Smith finished with 10 rushes for 26 yards.
C.J. Maner totaled 90 yards on 20 carries, while Cameron Syblis had 11 carries for 68 yards and quarterback Ryan Quigley ran 15 times for 60 yards.
It was the Hornets, though, who captured the initial momentum. They scored off a Tyler Wiley interception, when quarterback David Tinch snuck in from a yard out at 7:19 in the opening quarter.
Nature Coast's next drive ended with the first mishandled punt. After the snap soared over Alec Perkins' head, the kicker ended up recovering and getting tackled in the end zone.
That gave the Hornets a 9-0 lead with 5:00 still to go in the first. The Sharks got on the board at the 1:49 mark on Quigley's 19-yard rush up the middle off a fake handoff.
A 9-7 score held through halftime, until a strange-looking pass play in the third quarter.
Quigley floated a ball high down the right sideline to 6-foot-5, 215-pound Rohan Blackwood, who somehow outleaped two defenders to make the catch, then shook off the tackle attempts to go 58 yards for the go-ahead score.
"I just had to go up and get it," said Blackwood, committed to Wisconsin for his work as a pass rusher.
"This win is good, especially for the seniors, to go out with a win, not lose their last two games, especially their last away game. It feels good to finally, finally get another win. I'm happy about that, and our team's performance."
A blocked PAT left it 13-9, with 4:56 showing on the scoreboard clock.
Maner added a third touchdown on a 7-yard dash with 10:24 left to play. Nature Coast failed to run in a two-point attempt.
Weeki Wachee pulled within one score thanks to Tinch's 36-yard field at 3:04 to go, but never again regained possession.
Quigley notched a critical first down on a 14-yard run on third-and-4 at the Shark 41, essentially sealing the game with 2:02 remaining.
That denied the Hornets a chance to end their second varsity season with four wins, an improvement from 3-7 a year ago.
Junior quarterback Marcus Allen sat out his second straight game due to a coach's decision. He was on the sideline in a jersey and jeans.
Weeki Wachee head coach Mark Lee, who led Nature Coast to a 7-4 mark and a playoff appearance in his one season as head coach there in 2009, admitted that his familiarity helped in combatting the Shark rushing attack.
"Defensively, definitely the best job I think we've had all year," Lee said. "I'm proud of the effort we gave. We never gave up, we never quit. Even when we scored the field goal at the end, our kids still believed that we were going to get the ball back, go down and score on them.
"I was hoping to get better (this season). I was hoping to get more wins. But the district we were put in definitely did not help us out, for a second-year varsity program. But I think we held our own."
Nature Coast 19, Weeki Wachee 12
Qtr. Scoring 1 2 3 4
NCT 7 0 6 6 - 19
WW 9 0 0 3 - 12
WW - D. Tinch 1 run (D. Tinch kick)
WW - Safety
NCT - Quigley 19 run (Lacy kick)
NCT - Blackwood 58 pass from Quigley (Lacy kick blocked)
NCT - Maner 7 run (Green run failed)
WW - D. Tinch 36 field goal
First Downs 15 8
Atts./Rushing Yds. 62-201 26-51
Comps./Pass/Atts/Int. 1-4-1 6-18-2
Passing Yds. 58 90
Total Offense 66-259 44-141
Return Yds. 3-53 4-30
Punts/Avg. 2-35.0 4-35.3
Fumbles/Lost 3-0 0-0
Penalties 7-50 3-30