BROOKSVILLE – It took all of four plays to tell Friday wouldn’t be the Central Bears’ night.
The first play from scrimmage running back Robbie Bradley took the handoff and bolted past the Nature Coast defense for what appeared to be a 70-yard touchdown.
As a precursor of things to come, the play would be nullified by a holding penalty. The Bears would punt on that series and the Sharks wouldn’t look back in 34-0 win.
The play would be a huge momentum shift for the Sharks (1-2 overall, 1-0 5A-6) and Nature Coast head coach Charles Liggett couldn’t be more adamant about it.
“You bet it was a huge swing,” Liggett said. “I came out in a Bear defense, expecting them to run, and (Bradley) went sideline and was gone.”
On the next play, Liggett said he abandoned the defense and went back to the Sharks’ standard defense, a decision he would come to be grateful for.
“Maybe it was my turn,” Liggett said, “to have my guardian angel say stop running that defense.”
On the Sharks’ first drive, tailback DeShawn Smith was hit late out of bounds and injured his hip.
He would return later, but when he returned he wasn’t needed as C.J. Maner had already gained 101 yards on 10 carries, including the 1-yard run to start the scoring in the first.
Both defenses would be big for the rest of the first half, as the score at the break was only 7-0 Nature Coast.
“Defense played well,” Bears skipper Mike Einsphar said. “We gave them some good field position and some of our guys got dinged up.”
The second half would get chippy as Nature Coast would add 27 more points to complete to rout of the Bears (0-4 overall, 0-1 5A-6).
Getting in on the scoring was kicker Austin Lacy, who connected on field goal attempts of 37 and 32 yards, as well as quarterback Ryan Quigley, who had a 1-yard run and a 1-yard pass to Lenny Beetz for scores.
While the game was out of hand it didn’t stop players from both teams from jawing at each other all night, with late hits out of bounds and Central players being warned for headhunting according to the coaching staff.
One big play that seemed to start the tension was a Nature Coast punt. Austin Utter took the kick and was crushed instantly by Ryan Roscillo, causing a fumble the Sharks would recover.
Einsphar was irate after the hit, and both coaches were visibly upset with officials all night.
The Bears gained 172 yards of total offense, with Bradley gaining 103 of them on the ground. They could have gained more from the passing game, though, only completing 4-of-13 passes for 22 yards, and were hurt by some key drops.
“We just need to shore up some things,” Einsphar said. “We need to come out and play four quarters.”
The Bears will have to shore things up quick as they face powerhouse South Sumter next week.
As for the Sharks, Liggett hopes his team can build off this win when it travels to Pasco to take on the Pirates next week.
Nature Coast 34, Central 0
Qtr. Scoring 1 2 3 4
CEN 0 0 0 0 – 0
NCT 7 0 10 17 – 34
NCT – Maner 1 run (Lacy kick)
NCT – Lacy 37 field goal
NCT – Quigley 1 run (Lacy kick)
NCT – Lacy 32 field goal
NCT – Gray 30 interception return (Lacy kick)
NCT – Beetz 1 pass from Quigley (Lacy kick)
First Downs 8 15
Att/Rush Yds 34-150 31-177
Passing Yds 22 97
Total Offense 47-172 51-274
Return Yards 60 20
Punts/Avg. 6-29.1 3-50
Fumbles/Lost 1-1 0-0
Penalties/Yards 5-35 10-85