The regular season for prep football in Hernando County is over for teams like Central, Springstead, and Weeki Wachee. It’s not completely over for two other teams, however, as Nature Coast and Hernando have secured their spot in the playoffs. Nature Coast has clinched a playoff spot despite losing district games to Wesley Chapel and Zephyrhills. Hernando, on the other hand, made their second straight playoff berth under the watch of Earl Garcia III. Two-out-of-five of Hernando County’s squads will be in action for the postseason and both the Leopards and Sharks hope to advance closer to playing after Thanksgiving. We take a closer look at both of the playoff matchups on tap for Friday night.
Nature Coast (7-3) at Tampa Chamberlain (3-7): Nature Coast will take their 7-3 record down into the heart of Tampa when they face the Chamberlain Chiefs, who are the champions of Class 5A, District 11. Chamberlain’s three wins on the season came against Jefferson, Robinson and Middleton; All three had records below the .500 mark. The Sharks will need to slow down the running of tailback Desman Hearns, who has rushed for a team-high 337 yards (according to MaxPreps.com). Chamberlain is averaging 13.8 points per game and they are allowing an average of 28.0 a contest. On the other side of the spectrum is Nature Coast, which features running back Christian Cromer, who has rushed for 1,609 yards on the season and is just a sophomore. Also running the ball well is quarterback Ethan Fahey, who has rushed for nearly 700 yards and thrown for almost 1,000. Cory Johns’ ball club has an excellent opportunity to move onto the next round, especially coming off a 27-0 win over George Jenkins. The Sharks are looking for their first playoff win since 2019 (28-6 over Inverness Citrus).
Hernando (6-4) at Bushnell South Sumter (6-4): The Leopards qualified for the playoffs in Class 4A and will be facing off against the South Sumter Raiders, who are usually annual players in postseason play. Hernando will make the short drive over and face a Raiders’ team that is well balanced on offense. South Sumter is led by sophomore running back Jamare Dorsey, who has rushed for a team-high 789 yards. Junior quarterback Eian Finkley is at the command of the Raiders, throwing for 708 yards and four touchdowns. For Hernando, they are led defensively by linebacker Sam Sternberger, who has made 107 tackles and 17 have gone for a loss. Offensively, the Leopards will be heavily dependent on their running game with tailbacks Jordan Williams and Brian Lewis being the two main carriers. Williams has rushed for 661 yards and Lewis has added 631.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.