Sports notebook: HCA suffers heartbreak in state title game

Photography provided

Just 46 seconds separated Hernando Christian Academy’s six-man football team from a perfect season and a state championship Saturday night.
But the Lions ultimately returned home feeling the sting of disappointment, as Lakeland-Geneva Classical Academy scored late to pull out a 39-36 victory at Southeastern University’s Victory Field.
“I felt like our kids played as hard as they could. The breaks just went one way,” HCA head coach David Raley said. “Every aspect of our game played well. It was just two equally matched teams. They scored and time ran out.”
The Lions (10-1), who had defeated the Knights (10-1) in the season opener back in September, 41-27, had already rallied once in the fourth quarter, taking a 36-31 advantage on Kasey Springer’s 2-yard touchdown run with 46 seconds remaining.
But GCA answered, with Luke Brandt catching a 50-yard touchdown pass from Noah Hazelton as 15 seconds were left on the clock.
Springer scored three times for HCA, while Enrique Wells-Mottahedeh rushed for 140 yards on 21 carries.
“We’re very excited about our kids. A bunch are coming back next year. But the young men that were seniors have played for me since eighth grade,” Raley said. “It still stings to lose a state championship. But I’m very proud of what the kids accomplished from where we came. We started from scratch. The seniors this year were the kids we built on that got us where we are now.”
HCA’s girls basketball squad kept its unbeaten slate intact, notching wins over Tampa Adventist Academy on Monday, 52-20, Clearwater-Lakeside Christian on Tuesday, 56-39, and Ocala-St. John Lutheran on Friday, 49-32.
Cayla Phillips continues to pace the Lady Lions (9-0) at 15.3 points and 5.1 steals per game, while Milly Jackson averages 12.1 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.0 steals.
Springstead (5-2) beat Lecanto on Monday, 46-31, and Hernando on Wednesday, 36-31. The Lady Leopards (5-2) had defeated Class 6A, District 7 foe Citrus on Tuesday, 68-47, to move to 3-1 in the district.
Weeki Wachee (8-4) topped Gulf on Thursday, 53-39, and Lecanto on Friday, 43-18, to push its 6A-7 mark to 3-2.
In boys basketball, Springstead garnered two wins over county foes, downing Central on Wednesday, 58-51, and Hernando on Friday, 79-59. Noah Torkelson scored 15 points to lead the Eagles (4-3) against the Bears, who got 38 from Caleb Johnson.
Jeffery Cotnoir scored 26 in the win over the Leopards, while Keaton Skinner added 16 points, Robert Gomez scored 13, and Randy Morgan had 12 points, 11 rebounds and four steals.
Hernando (3-2) had earlier defeated Citrus on Tuesday, 60-58, to improve to 3-1 in 6A-7. Muhannad Abdaldean had 19 points, seven rebounds and three steals for the Leopards. Noah Batten tallied 14 points, six boards and three steals, while Ygenio Booker added 13 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
Nature Coast and Weeki Wachee tied for the second time in boys soccer on Monday, this time 2-2. Vinny Stulec and Jaxsen Soto scored for the Sharks, while Maikol Santana and Harry Flanagan had goals for the Hornets.
The Sharks tacked on a 5-0 victory over Wesley Chapel on Wednesday, and an 8-2 triumph over Hernando on Friday. They are now 7-3-3 on the season, 5-2-3 in 3A-7 action.
As for the Hornets (5-1-3 overall, 5-1-3 3A-7), they downed Springstead on Wednesday, 2-0, and Wesley Chapel on Friday, 5-1.
Springstead (8-5-2 overall, 5-1-1 3A-7) knocked off Crystal River on Tuesday, 3-2, and Zephyrhills on Friday, 2-1.
On the girls soccer side, Springstead (5-8 overall, 5-4 3A-7) registered wins versus Weeki Wachee on Wednesday, 3-2, and Zephyrhills on Friday, 8-0.
The Lady Hornets (6-9-1 overall, 4-6 3A-7) collected a 4-2 victory over Nature Coast on Monday, but lost to Wesley Chapel on Friday, 7-1.
Follow Chris Bernhardt Jr. on Twitter @cpbernhardtjr.

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