By Andy Villamarzo
Hernando Sun sports writer
photography by Cheryl Clanton
The regular season for prep football in Hernando County came to a close last week and two teams were able to come away qualifying for spots in the postseason, as Hernando and Nature Coast are back in the Class 5A playoffs. Both clubs will be looking to advance against out of area opponents, with Hernando going on the road and Nature Coast hosting. We take a closer look at both of the matchups on tap for Friday night.
Hernando (7-3) at Baker County (6-4): It’s not quite the scenario that played out last season for Hernando, as they were able to host a playoff game at Tom Fisher Stadium. This time around, however, the Leopards will take their act on the road and head north to take on the Baker County Wildcats. The Wildcats fell to Dunnellon 15-14 in the regular season finale, but they did knock off Hernando’s postseason opponent from last year, Clay, 27-24 during the season. The Leopards must lean on their defense and controlling the clock with their run game. First-year coach Rob Kazmier will need running backs Isreal Fields and David Hale Bronson to come up huge if Hernando has any chance of picking up the road victory.
Gainesville Eastside (7-3) at Nature Coast (9-1): The only common opponent for Gainesville Eastside and Nature Coast on both schedules is Central, whom the Rams traveled down to Brooksville and defeated 64-0. The Sharks also had their way with the Bears, defeating the winless Central club 55-0. The Rams are led by quarterback Anthony Richardson, who has thrown for over 1,400 yards and 15 touchdowns through the air through 10 games. Eastside, though, primarily likes to stay on the ground more as they are averaging 261 yards a game. Deion Jenkins leads the Rams with 1,029 yards rushing and Richardson has over 900 yards himself. Nature Coast counters with one of the top rushing attacks in the state led by running back Michael Weston. Weston has rushed for 2,007 yards and scored 25 touchdowns so far. Sharks’ quarterback Fabian Burnett has been solid himself, throwing for over 600 yards, eight touchdowns and zero interceptions this season.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.