BROOKSVILLE- The high school football state playoffs are on the horizon and the Hernando Leopards are one of the county teams that are determined to reach the postseason.
In a rare Tuesday night matchup between the Leopards and Wiregrass Ranch Bulls, a makeup game from Week 1 of the season, both teams are currently slated to make the state playoffs in their respective classes and it was a chance to improve their positioning. Hernando tried to keep things slowed down, but it was just not enough to keep up with Wiregrass Ranch.
The Leopards yielded 212 yards rushing to the Bulls en route to a 37-15 loss at home in a non-district matchup. Hernando finished the regular season at 5-4 and now awaits for Sunday’s FHSAA RPI final rankings and see where they may end up seeding-wise in Class 4A. The last rankings that came out had Hernando matching up against Bushnell South Sumter.
Hernando head coach Earl Garcia III’s plan to slow play and chew up the game clock worked to perfection in the opening quarter, as the Leopards held onto the ball for most of the first period. Wiregrass (5-4) got on the board in the second quarter on a Rocco Becht (7-of-12, 82 yards) touchdown pass and a field goal to go into intermission up 10-0.
The running back tandem of Jordan Williams and Brian Lewis caused problems for the Bulls’ front seven as the two combined for 177 yards. Hernando (5-4) wasn’t able to get on the scoreboard until the third quarter when Williams scored on a short run and a successful 2-point try narrowed the game to 17-8. The game ended up becoming out of reach though when Becht connected with wide receiver Bryson Rodgers on a touchdown pass.
Hernando, along with Nature Coast, are the two Hernando County teams that are still alive when it comes to playoff contention. The Sharks play one last regular-season game on Friday night when they face George Jenkins out of Polk County on the road. For other county teams like Springstead, Central, and Weeki Wachee, their seasons will end after Friday night.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.