Nature Coast started off its 2012 campaign Friday night at the Shark Tank hot right out of the gate.
Senior Dylan Savoury took a handoff and rumbled 61 yards for the touchdown 1:17 into the game against Crystal River for a 6-0 lead. Austin Lacy added the extra point for the Sharks.
Nature Coast would take advantage of a failed Pirate fourth-down conversion as it began its scoring drive at the Crystal River 46-yard line.
Senior running back Matt Breida took a pitch into the end zone from four yards out for a 13-0 Shark lead. Lacy split the uprights for a 14-0 lead.
Nature Coast was trying to increase the lead as it had the Pirates on their heels, driving to the Crystal River 21.
A costly mistake turned third-and-inches into a fourth-and-15 that negated the drive.
The Sharks' defense played fast and physical in the first half, holding Crystal River to just 79 total yards as the hosts took a 14-0 lead into halftime.
In the second half, the whole complexion of the game changed.
Crystal River linebacker Rueben Bowers intercepted a Shark pass and took it 20 yards to the end zone to cut the lead in half with 9:58 left in the third quarter.
Nature Coast got some good fortune on a botched punt to pick up a first down. But just into the fresh, new drive, a fumble was recovered by Crystal River at the Shark 33-yard line.
Pirate quarterback Joe LaFleur then connected on a touchdown strike to Ty Reynolds to bring the Pirates to within one point of the lead.
John McAteer converted the extra point to knot the score at 14 apiece with 20 seconds left in third.
Crystal River was able to establish its running game behind the play of its offensive line.
In the fourth quarter, the Pirates embarked on a long drive from their own 12 as they got solid blocking and good physical running from Destin Dawsy, who scored on a 4-yard touchdown rush on a trap play to give the Pirates a 20-14 lead with 3:37 left in contest. John McAteer added the point after for a 21-14 advantage.
On the ensuing drive, the Sharks' last hope was erased as Crystal River linebacker A.J. Bostic intercepted a pass.
The Crystal River defense stymied the Sharks while holding them to just 57 total second-half yards.
"In the second half, they made the adjustments and we were unable to hang with their adjustments", said Nature Coast head coach Charles Liggett. "What we did worked in the first half, but we stuck with what we were doing and it didn't work for us in the second half.
"We worked in the offseason to play a complete game and we should have not have lost that football game. Give Crystal River all the respect, but we have good kids, and we'll continue to work hard."