The regular season for prep football in Hernando County is finally here and there’s no more warm ups, as teams will play in their respective regular season opening games. Last week all Preseason Classic games were rained out with the exception of Central’s. This week we’ll hope for better weather so we can see all five of Hernando County’s clubs in action. It will be the first goodlook coaches will get at their starters. Here are the Week 1 regular season matchups on tap for Friday night.
Land O’ Lakes Sunlake at Springstead: A matchup that used to be an annual meeting between Bill Vonada and Bill Browning has now become the first game between Mike Garofano and his new counterpart, Trey Burdick. The Eagles were set to play in a preseason classic last week against Dunnellon before bad weather canceled both schedules games, which included a makeup. Now Springstead heads into its regular season opener against a Sunlake team that lost 26-7 to New Port Richey River Ridge last week. The Eagles will employ a steady dose of the run and the passing game, led by quarterback Max O’Rourke.
Tarpon Springs East Lake at Nature Coast: This matchup is very likely one of the top five best in the Tampa Bay area, as the Eagles travel up US Highway 19 and head to Brooksville to face a reloaded Sharks’ squad. Nature Coast returns one of the most talented teams it’s had in recent memory and a lot of its starts at the quarterback position. Who will be handling the bulk of the snaps? There’s first the incumbent Fabian Burnett Jr., who helped guide the Sharks to the region final against Citra North Marion. Then you have Weeki Wachee transfer Vaughn Sykora, who threw for over 1,700 yards last season. What gives? We will see who head coach Cory Johns tabs to start in Week 1.
Weeki Wachee at Groveland South Lake: Weeki Wachee is going through a transition period under the new head coach Chris Cook. The Hornets went from being a passing team under Jacob Gray to a run-oriented one under Cook. Everyone will get their first look at Weeki Wachee when they face off against a solid Groveland South Lake team. The Eagles are coming off a season in which they reached the playoffs and ended up losing 54-0 to Seffner Armwood in the region quarterfinals. South Lake went 6-5 in 2018 and returns many of its playmakers from a year ago. They will be a tough challenge for the up and coming Hornets.
Lakeland Lake Gibson at Hernando: The Leopards must’ve wanted their first four games to toughen them up for a deep postseason run, as Hernando will face the likes of Lakeland Lake Gibson, Eau Gallie, Lake Weir and than a talented Crystal River team. Both Eau Gallie (Chris Sands, Central) and Crystal River (Cliff Lohery, Central) both have ties to Hernando County as they were previously head coaches for Central High School. Hernando has a lot to prove coming off a 7-3 season in which they reached the postseason under Rob Kazmier. The second-year lead man will look to guide the Leopards back into the playoffs and make some noise in Class 5A.
Central at Umatilla: The off-season wasn’t particularly kind to Central, as the Bears’ then head coach John Warren accepted a job in Texas and promptly left leaving the program without a lead man. Central has since hired Rob Walden to take over the controls to the team and they will have their hands full facing off against a similar Umatilla team. The Bulldogs are similar to Central in the fact that they also went 0-10 in 2018 and are looking for their first victory on the field in over a year. The Bears and Bulldogs should make for one of the better games amongst ones involving Hernando County clubs. Central will traveling to Umatilla’s home turf.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.