By MEL SUITER, Hernando Sun Reporter
Orlando, Fla.— Just a chance!
The long bus ride that started from the campus of Nature Coast Tech High School was symbolic of the long journey that these Sharks started way back in the month of August. The journey included the hard work they endured, the sweat dripping under the blazing hot summer sun and the irritation of the many disappointments of games that were lost.
This football team just wanted an opportunity to show the state of Florida, under the soft glow of the neon lights from the city of the magic kingdom, that dreams do indeed come true!
The dream didn’t materialize against the Fighting Tigers. The 2019 football season came to a bitter end, Friday Nov. 15, with a 35-14, defeat against the No.1 team in Class 5A and 109th ranked team in the United States, Jones High School located in Orlando.
Jones High School scored 14 points in the first quarter and the Sharks could not overcome the deficit but they made the Tigers earn the win.
Nature Coast rushing offense did find some success in the first half and forced the Tigers to play an extra player up into the box at the line of scrimmage.
The philosophy for the Sharks was to apply the running game, take control of the tempo of the game which would limit the Tigers offense to be out on the field.
The plan was working!
The large and loud crowd that were busy making noise and creating a celebration atmosphere suddenly turned their focus on the Tigers defense and the mood changed to concern.
Nature Coast Tech High School football coach Cory Johns opened up the playbook for the Sharks and decided on a play, that maybe he now would think twice about.
Sharks’ senior quarterback Fabian Burnett broke the huddle after the play was called. He brought his team to the line of scrimmage, looked over the defense, got his team set and then started the play.
The play started to develop quickly as Burnett handed the ball off to Dedric Hall and then he pitched the ball into the hands of Kinyatah Morgan. He started sprinting toward the Tigers sideline. He drifted toward the line of scrimmage. Morgan looked up and brought the ball back and launched the ball through the night air.
It was a pass that a player is taught never to throw. His arm went across his body toward the middle of the field while Morgan was running to his right.
The football floated up toward the sky in slow-motion and then it came down from the night sky even slower into the waiting arms of the Fighting Tigers defensive back Rodney Echols.
Echols caught the ball, he made one move to his right and then ran 50 yards to the end zone for the score. It was the play of the night for the Tigers and the worst nightmare for the Sharks.
The interception return for the score brought a collective sigh of relief from the crowd and the Sharks could never recover. It was the kind of play that the Tigers needed to jump start their offense.
Then the fans in their seats, the players on the field and the coaches standing on the sideline witnessed momentum make up its mind and stay on the Fighting Tiger side of the field.
Nature Coast Tech High School worked hard during the season and overcame the adversity that accumulated during the season.
Injuries to key players up on the line of scrimmage forced Johns to call up players from the junior varsity. There was also the suspension of Morgan during the game at Wiregrass Ranch for what still looks like a football play.
Then there are the forces that control the game; calls that can change the direction and momentum of the game. He referred to some pivotal calls that could have resulted in
Johns expressed that he was not disappointed in the players, but in certain calls, which resulted in touchdowns being taken away from his team. He referred to their first possession in the first half, where they scored, but the referee blew the whistle and said it didn’t count since the side judge was not ready. Then another touchdown pass, an NCT receiver was pushed in the back and that didn’t count either.
The season for the Sharks was a complete roller coaster ride. The emotion of the Sharks was down after the shutout by South Sumter High School at home, then emotion was high with winning the District Title at the Citrus Bowl against an undefeated Citrus High School.
Johns was emotional after the game talking about the seniors on the team. He said that he is proud to know each one of his student-athletes. They played football the right way with plenty of hard work and more importantly that they are just great kids.
Jones High School’s journey to the State Finals road trip to Daytona Beach will continue Friday November 22, against Vanguard High School, Friday night, November 22, at 7:30 in Orlando.
As the stadium lights were being turned off, the echo of the crowd floated up toward the overcast sky above and the Sharks boarded the buses heading back home.
As the dust cleared, Nature Coast Tech High School the 2019 football season- had come to an end.