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Hernando High


Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 04:24 PM

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"High-powered passing game" won't appear on anyone's scouting report of Hernando High School football.

The Leopards' Wing-T offense has allowed its running backs to shine throughout the past few seasons.

But for quarterbacks and receivers, the opportunities to stand out don't come as easily.

That didn't stop the Hernando passing connection of Cleve Pope and Terrance Owens from signing to play football at Concordia College-Selma in Alabama.

"They've been very good leaders for our team," said John Palmer, who last month resigned after four seasons as Hernando head coach.

"They both have a lot of enthusiasm and excitement to their performance. They're both very strong character people, and I think they'll do well in school."

In May, Central offensive lineman Tyler Wilson signed with Concordia University Chicago. Both schools are part of the Concordia University System.

Alabama's Concordia is an independent in football. The Hornets went 6-4 in 2011, their sixth season of existence.

The Leopards pair echoed one another in providing their reason for choosing this mutual destination. They visited the campus together in April.

"To me, I felt more comfortable with that decision," Owens said. "I felt comfortable with the coaches. I hung out with the players. It feels the same as Hernando."

"It was more like a family environment," Pope said. "It felt like being back home. They were embracing and loving. Everyone was happy to see you."

Both Owens, 18, and Pope, 19, just celebrated their graduation from Hernando, having helped the Leopards rise from mediocrity to district champs under Palmer.

"When I first got here in ninth grade, we were a great team, but we just couldn't win games," Owens said. "We had a lot of great athletes, we just couldn't win games.

"When Coach Palmer got there, things progressed. We got better every year."

As a senior, Owens — a 6-foot-3, 185-pound wide receiver better known as "T.O." — lived up to the moniker he shares with former NFL wideout Terrell Owens.

He caught 13 passes for 281 yards and four touchdowns, all team and career highs in his third varsity campaign.

As a starting free safety, Owens recorded 44 tackles with team bests of four interceptions and four fumble recoveries.

"With Terrance, he's such a great athlete who'll be able to play multiple positions. He'll fit wherever they need him," Palmer said.

"Terrance goes hard, he plays physically. He'll go up and make big plays. He's a gifted athlete with a lot of upside. He's pretty raw but athletically he's still developing."

Owens, who intends to major in business administration, will play receiver with the Hornets.

"I want to better myself and also the dream of playing football doesn't end in high school for me," Owens said. "I want to see if I can make it in Arena Football or somewhere to make my dream come true."

On the other end of those throws to Owens was Pope, 5-foot-11, 185 pounds. He completed 22 of 52 passes for 480 yards, connecting on six touchdowns versus four interceptions. He also ran 18 times for 82 yards and a score.

"Cleve was truly our leader, especially offensively, the last two years," Palmer said. "He has that ability.

"The kids really liked that enthusiasm. They rallied around him. He was not afraid to be vocal in a positive way. That's important when you play the quarterback position."

Pope emerged as the starting signal caller during his junior year, though he saw varsity time as early as his freshman season.

In 2010, Pope was 18-of-31 passing, posting 269 yards and three touchdowns, and getting picked off once.

"The last couple of years I surprised myself," Pope said. "I wasn't sure on me being a quarterback. I thought I would end up playing defense. But it turns out I have the tools to play quarterback."

Concordia views him as a quarterback in its spread option attack. He's excited for the chance to learn another offense. He believes it'll help him achieve his goal of becoming a coach.

To that end, he plans to major in physical education.

Pope said he won't be redshirted, so he hopes to compete for playing time once he learns the system.

To see action under center, Pope said he'll have to get "the players around me to trust me and want to be around me. Then, keep that trust."

Though Owens and Pope didn't necessarily intend to sign with the same school, they do have a friendship beyond the football field.

As Brooksville natives, they crossed paths long before their prep days. They plan to room together when they arrive in Alabama.

"The past two years he has been my main receiver, so me and him are pretty tight," Pope said.

"Once we get up there, we'll probably miss home. It'll be good to see a familiar face every day. It's good to have someone you can depend on, because mom is not there anymore."

"I might chill with other players, but I know I have somebody I can trust," Owens said. "That does help to know you have somebody you can trust and rely on."

In addition to playing football, Owens and Pope have received the go-ahead to try out for basketball and track and field. They participated in those sports at Hernando.

Owens had a particularly stellar senior year athletically. He was All-County in basketball, averaging 15.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 2.9 steals and 2.8 assists.

In track, Owens was a Class 2A state qualifier in the high jump after notching a district title in triple jump. Pope was a district champ in the 110 hurdles.

But football remains the passion for these two, and they'll get to stay on the gridiron for at least a few more years.

"Both were very key in us being able to win in district play the last two years. They were key performers in that, both on the field and in the classroom," Palmer said.

"They were always doing things that helped bring people together and not tear things down. They were always trying to build things up, and I think they'll do a great job in the future."


By the numbers: Terrance Owens


YR                  REP     YDS    YPC    TD       LG

Jr                     4          67        16.8     0          24

Sr                     13        271      20.8     4          71*

TOTALS         17        338      19.9     4          71*


By the numbers: Cleve Pope


YR                  ATT     COMP .PCT    YDS    TD       INT

Jr                     31        18        56.3     269      3          1

Sr                     52        22        42.3     480      6          3

TOTALS         83        40        48.2     749      9          4         (352) 544-5288

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