ORLANDO- The final Hernando County high school team left standing was Hernando High School who faced perennial state power, Orlando Jones, in a Class 5A region quarterfinal matchup last Friday evening.
It would be the end of the road, however, for the Leopards when they made the drive over to Orlando. Hernando wasn’t able to get anything going offensively against the Fightin’ Tigers, as they fell in a 39-0 decision. Hernando finishes up the season with a record at 7-2 under first-year head coach Earl Garcia III.
After being a year removed from the playoffs, the Leopards got back into the postseason and started it off with a bang against Tarpon Springs in a play-in playoff contest. Hernando had little trouble getting by the Spongers 55-14, but that first playoff game wasn’t going to be a preview of what would happen in the second round.
Hernando (7-2) got down 19-0 by halftime before allowing a couple more touchdowns in the second half and falling inevitably to Jones. The Leopards had themselves a great season under Garcia III, as his stiff defense only allowed 101 points through nine games. They were able to score 241 points on offense.
The only regular-season loss Hernando suffered was against county rival Nature Coast 34-28. Outside of that, the Leopards flew by mostly every other opponent with ease. Hernando started off the season with a pair of blowout wins over Crystal River (33-0 win) and Weeki Wachee (35-0 win). After the loss to Nature Coast, Hernando strung together five wins in a row before facing Jones.
One of the biggest additions of the off-season for any county club was Hernando having running back Contae Cason transfer from Central. He produced some big numbers in his lone season with the Leopards. Cason rushed for a team-high 1,097 yards and scored 16 touchdowns on the ground. Cason also collected 301 yards receiving through the air and adding another five scores.
Leading the team on the defensive side of the ball was junior linebacker Sam Sternberger, who made 87 tackles and eight tackles for loss. The defense recorded a total of 13 sacks and five interceptions as a unit. Though the Leopards graduate 15 seniors, Hernando’s future looks bright moving forward under the watch of Garcia III.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.