When Nature Coast took a look at the clock winding down on its 2019 season a couple weeks ago in its 35-14 region semifinal loss to Orlando Jones, the Sharks still had a lot to be proud of themselves for.
Despite having one of the most up and down seasons amongst any of the five Hernando County prep football teams, Nature Coast was still able to pull themselves together in time to win a district championship and reach the playoffs. NCT had two quarterbacks throughout the season, but still relied upon the playmaking abilities of Fabian Burnett, who helped guide Nature Coast to the region final in 2018.
Overcoming the loss of Michael Weston from 2018 was really the biggest question mark surrounding the team during the off-season and despite his near 3,000 yards rushing being off the roster, the Sharks made it happen. Nature Coast pulled off another district championship against the odds.
Facing an Orlando Jones team that is quite arguably one of the top teams in central Florida, not many gave the Sharks a chance to be in the game versus the Fightin’ Tigers. Within 28-14 in the fourth quarter before Jones added another score, one thing Nature Coast never did was give up. Though the Sharks did have some losses that seemed head scratching, it was a trial by fire season.
Now head coach Cory Johns and his staff will have to rebuild or reload as they say, with another big senior class seeing its way out this off-season. One of those seniors will be Burnett, who was the do-all athlete the Sharks utilized heavily the last two seasons. Vaughn Sykora, who came over via transfer from Weeki Wachee, will also be on his way out.
Three starters on Nature Coast’s offensive line will be graduating along with a host of others on the defensive side of the football. Only a handful of key contributors from the last two seasons will still be around as seniors, with running back Kinyatah Morgan being the mainstay for the Sharks. This will be a much different looking Nature Coast squad once spring football rolls around in late April.
With Springstead improving and Hernando on the rise with many underclassmen, could Nature Coast’s time as the No. 1 team in the county be numbered? Only time will really tell the story if the Sharks can continue their run of district titles and postseason appearances. The Sharks are officially on the clock.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.