And then there was one left standing.
That one team left standing is the Hernando Leopards, who are coming off a dominating performance against Tarpon Springs from last week’s Class 5A play-in playoff game. The Leopards went into cruise control and breezed past the Spongers 55-14 on the road and now Hernando moves into the second round against its toughest opponent of the season when they face Orlando Jones.
Under the watch of first-year head coach Earl Garcia III, this Leopards team has taken it to another level on the offensive side of the football and much of that can be attributed to the running of tailback Contae Cason. Cason, who transferred over from Central before the school year began, has been putting up some big numbers in recent weeks and last Friday was no different. Cason had seven carries for 131 yards and four touchdowns and raised his season rushing yardage total to over 1,000 yards. Not too shabby for eight games played.
Now Hernando’s offense is going to go up against an Orlando Jones’ defense that’s only yielding 18.8 points per game and has seen very tough competition all season long. The Tigers are no strangers to facing off against Hernando County teams, as they knocked off Nature Coast 35-14 in last year’s postseason.
Much will be on the shoulders of Hernando’s defense in this game, as the Leopards will need to slow down an Orlando Jones attack that is nearly averaging 400 yards of offense every game. The Leopards have not seen a team like the Tigers this season, so there will be a brief adjustment period early on. Leading the way on offense for the Tigers is Tysan Robbins, who has thrown for nearly 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns so far this season. Also, the backfield features two running backs that have rushed for over 400 yards in tailbacks Stephen Sparrow and Daquan Harris.
When it comes down to the two teams and their prior playoff experience, Jones definitely is the more battle-tested club. Hernando just finished outside of the playoff picture last season, finishing at 5-5. The Tigers last season on the other hand were able to make a deep playoff run, reaching the Class 5A state championship. They lost 34-17 to Miami Northwestern. This Leopards team has an opportunity to knock off one of the state contenders in Class 5A, but have a tough uphill climb to do so.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.
This article was edited to correct the location of the game. The game will be held at Orlando Jones High School, not Hernando High School as was originally reported. We apologize for this error.