CLEARWATER- Whether it’s a year removed from losing one of their top players with a slew of seniors exiting due to graduation, the Nature Coast Sharks have proven once more they can overcome just about anything.
On a team that’s sophomore laden with eight starters being 10th graders, the Sharks were able to qualify back into the playoffs in Class 5A and have also laid the foundation for the next couple of seasons. Reason being some of the team’s top players are sophomores and will return with plenty of experience under their belts as juniors.
Take a look at Nature Coast’s backfield, dubbed ‘RBU’ in Running Back University for all the talented tailbacks to come from the school, the Sharks are already grooming another great in Christian Cromer. The 245-pound bowling ball was able to solidify himself as Hernando County’s top running back and helping the Sharks win a playoff game hinged a lot on his two legs churning.
Cromer rushed for a county-high 1,939 yards and scored 21 touchdowns on the ground. Heck, he even threw for a touchdown in the 40-14 region semifinal loss to Clearwater. Nonetheless, Cromer isn’t the only building block that brings encouragement to the program moving forward. Cromer follows in the footsteps of guys like Rian Williams, Tevin Drake, Deshawn Smith, Matt Breida and Mike Weston.
Throw in talented sophomore Carlos Rodriguez, who can play wide receiver or running back. Rodriguez scored twice against the Tornadoes in the playoffs and proved he will be a talent to watch for in the next two seasons. Having a couple dynamic players like Cromer and Rodriguez will pay dividends in 2022 and 2023 when they are even more experienced and battle tested.
Though Hernando did beat Nature Coast, that might be a good thing for the Sharks as it reignited a rivalry that needed some ammunition to it. The Sharks now will have their sights set on the next time they play the Leopards and vice versa. For all the excitement and new stories that 2021 brought us for high school football, one thing remained certain and that’s the Nature Coast Sharks’ football program will remain pretty good for years to come.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.