The regular season for prep football in Hernando County is finally over for teams like Central, Hernando, Springstead, and Weeki Wachee. It’s not completely over for one of the county’s teams, however, as Nature Coast continued its dream for a state championship with a 24-21 win over Tampa Chamberlain in the playoffs.
Nature Coast had clinched a playoff spot despite losing district games to Wesley Chapel and Zephyrhills and now has a date with the Clearwater Tornadoes. One out of five of Hernando County’s squads will be in action for the postseason and the Sharks hope to advance to playing after Thanksgiving in a region final. We take a closer look at the playoff matchup on tap for Friday night.
Class 5A-Region 3
Nature Coast (8-3) at Clearwater (10-1)
The last prep football team standing out of Hernando County is the Nature Coast Sharks and they’ll have a tall task on their hands Friday when they travel down to Clearwater to face the Tornadoes.
The Sharks are back in the region semifinals for the fourth time in five seasons and it’s a familiar place for them as they try to reach their second region final in four years. Nature Coast was able to get by Tampa Chamberlain with a huge game from running back Christian Cromer, who rushed for 291 yards and scored three touchdowns. Now he will try to do that against a much more stiff Clearwater defense that defeated Hudson 55-14.
That’s the one common opponent for each team but the difference is Nature Coast allowed 57 points to Hudson. Another difference is the playing styles of Nature Coast and Clearwater, as the Sharks prefer to slow the game down and grind you out. The Tornadoes would rather make it a track meet, with quarterback Aidan Maclean leading Pinellas County with 39 touchdown passes and he owns the county record for touchdowns in a season passing-wise.
Cromer is the Sharks’ top offensive threat, as he is now at 1,900 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns. Nature Coast quarterback Ethan Fahey and tight end/linebacker Brady Nowlan are two other players that have to be difference makers if the Sharks look to upend the favored Tornadoes. The winner will face the opposite semifinal game-winner between St. Petersburg Gibbs and Sebring.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him at @avillamarzo.