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Friday, September 22, 2023
HomeSportsFootballLeopards Sink Pirates on Jerome Brown Night

Leopards Sink Pirates on Jerome Brown Night

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On Friday night, the Hernando Leopards (2-2) narrowly defeated the Pasco Pirates (0-4) in a 15-14 victory at Tom Fisher Stadium. At halftime, the home team took the time to honor former football star Jerome Brown. They did so by presenting a trio of Hernando, University of Miami, and Eagles jersies to Cynthia Brown Jackson and other members of Brown’s family. The number 42 was even painted at midfield to pay homage to the late Hernando defensive lineman’s high school number.

“I love how Hernando is still keeping his memory alive,” Cynthia Brown Jackson said. “His love for not only Hernando High School, but for student athletes, but most of all for the community. So, it just brings back a lot of memories for us – good memories – that we can still celebrate the unity that’s within the community here in Brooksville.”

After a rough 0-2 start to the season in which they were outscored 79-0, Head Coach John Scargle’s squad has now won back-to-back games in which the defense has not given up more than a touchdown in either matchup. Though Hernando allowed two touchdowns in Friday’s showdown, one of those scores was on special teams. This was a rematch from last season in which Hernando traveled to Pasco and was soundly defeated 42-21. With the Pirates struggling to a winless start so far, there was no better opportunity for the Leopards to exact their revenge.

“Really proud,” Coach Scargle said. “They never gave up. They fought to the very end. Really proud of this group. A little different than our game last year. We really weren’t in the game last year against Pasco. This year they came out and went after it from the beginning.”

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An early concern for the home team, the Pirates started on Hernando’s side of the field on their first two drives while the Leopards did not return the favor. To compound the issue, the Leopards’ first pair of drives produced few yards. The Pirates were more productive. They turned the ball over on downs in the redzone on their first possession and scored a touchdown on the second. Terrific field position for the visitors meant a relatively short drive of six plays that was capped off by a seven-yard touchdown run by Sophomore Running Back Amerh Norris. The touchdown was a result of poor tackling as Norris shook off a would-be tackle in the backfield and scampered around the right side to the endzone.

Despite the rough start, the Leopards were only down one score and immediately got to work fixing it. On the second play of their next drive, Senior Running Back John Capel III ran for his first of two long touchdown plays on the night. With 43 seconds left in the initial frame, the senior broke free up the middle and past the secondary for a 65-yard rushing touchdown. From this point on, the Purple and Gold maintained a much more sustainable starting field position. The visitors still tended to have a shorter field, but the difference was not as disparate as the drives of the first quarter.

“I would say that long run by John Capel was a game changer, but I like the way the defense is playing,” Coach Scargle said. “We only gave up one touchdown. Last year was a different story. We really buttoned up, kept their running game intact, and their passing game really didn’t do too much as well.”

The only other scoring by either team took place early in the third quarter. After a quick Pasco three-and-out to open the second half, Hernando struck again on a three-play drive. Two runs for no gain by Capel quickly turned into a 64-yard reception by the running back. The senior caught a pass over the middle from Sophomore QB Michael Saltsman, weaved between defenders, and raced to paydirt.

The Leopards did have plenty of mistakes to clean up, though. Losing the battle of field position, committing a variety of penalties, botching a short kick in the third quarter, and allowing an Angel Miles touchdown on a kickoff return all add up to an uncomfortable victory – or an infuriating loss. They still walked out of Tom Fisher Stadium with the win that night, though, and being able to assess your mistakes after a victory is infinitely better than the inverse.

“Some of the things that we got to work on is we have to eliminate the little mistakes,” Coach Scargle said. “The little assignment errors that we’re making, we got to cut that out. We got to reduce them at least by 50 percent. We had probably 20 or 30 small assignment errors tonight and if we eliminate them, the game’s not even close.”

To the Pirate’s chagrin, they made more mistakes than the Purple and Gold despite the strong start. A deluge of penalties, often at the most inopportune times, is what doomed the visitors. A pick-six, a rushing touchdown, and a passing touchdown were all called back as a result of Pirates’ flags. A sequence that made the difference in the score came after Capel’s second touchdown. A pair of offsides penalties by Pasco on the PAT allowed Hernando to change tactics and attempt the two-point conversion. The Leopards converted on a QB sneak by Saltsman and the Pirates refused to go for two on their own touchdown seconds later.

A late fumble by Pasco on the Hernando 41 yard line with 2:19 remaining would essentially sink the Pirates’ comeback bid. The Leopards were able to run most of the clock out and punt the ball to the Pasco 36 with a mere 31 seconds left. A long completion to Norris on first down would be negated by yet another penalty, this one for an ineligible player downfield. This reduced the visitors’ hopes to three more incomplete pass attempts before time expired.

Looking ahead, the Pirates enjoy a bye week to rest up and make corrections. After the break, they will travel to take on the Cypress Creek Coyotes (3-0) on September 29. Hernando will also be on the road as they face the Lecanto Panthers next Friday. The Leopards will hope to cut down on mistakes next week If they hope to win their third game in a row. Despite the hiccups, the Leopards’ head coach was glad they could pay tribute to the local football hero with a victory.

“I’m really happy for the fans and all of [Brown’s] relatives and everybody from Brooksville that we could actually win on Jerome Brown night,” Coach Scargle said. “It means a lot to this community.”

Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch is a Graduate with Distinction, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. He's written numerous articles reporting on Florida Gators football, basketball, and soccer teams; the sports of rugby, basketball, professional baseball, hockey, and the NFL Draft. Prior to Hernando Sun he was a contributor to ESPN, Gainesville, FL and Gator Country Multimedia, Inc. in Gainesville, FL, and Stadium Gale.
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