Photo by ALICE MARY HERDEN
BROOKSVILLE- It all came down to one kick for Nature Coast in the Class 5A, Region 2 final when they faced Citra North Marion over three weeks ago in one of the biggest games in Hernando County prep football history.
The hopes and dreams of becoming Hernando County’s first football team to make it to a state championship game hung in the balance when the Nature Coast lined up for the field goal attempt. Their attempt though at history was shot down when the kick was blocked and returned for a touchdown, this ending Nature Coast’s run in one of the best seasons a team from Hernando County had ever experienced.
That was the story for Nature Coast when they fell 29-22 to North Marion, but it didn’t tell everyone how very close the Sharks were from coming all the way back to win the game. Sharks’ running back Michael Weston put together one of the top performances in any region final played throughout the state of Florida, rushing for 288 yards on 44 carries and scoring three touchdowns. North Marion ended up facing Cardinal Gibbons in the Class 5A state championship game and lost 48-10.
“I know it sucks for (the players) right now, but when they look back on this, they will see this a lot more differently than they do right now,” Nature Coast coach Cory Johns said after the game. “This is a great football team. It just sucks it had to end like this because I felt like we were the better football team.” Weston, a 6-foot-2, 235-pound battering ram, was nearly unstoppable outside of the Sharks’ first couple of possessions. His 2018 season will be compared to the likes of his predecessors like DuJuan Harris (Central; Green Bay Packers/San Francisco 49ers), Tevin Drake (Nature Coast; Western Michigan), Matt Breida (Nature Coast; San Francisco 49ers) and DeShawn Smith (Nature Coast; Florida A&M). The final tally on yardage and touchdowns for Weston ended up being 2,893 and 34, which led every Tampa Bay area running back by far. Weston wasn’t the only backfield player to post a solid season for the Sharks, with quarterback Fabian Burnett throwing for 1,041 yards, 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions on the year. Burnett made some clutch throws all throughout the season and also added 760 yards rushing with his legs. Sophomore running back Kinyatah Morgan is the top returner to the backfield for Johns and crew, with the tailback rushing for 377 yards this season. Morgan will very likely see a much increased role moving forward. Another player to watch out for next season is sophomore Issac Edwards, who tallied 340 yards rushing. Both Morgan and Edwards will be a duo that area teams will have to figure out the next couple years. After the region final game nearly a month ago, many players took the loss hard, but Johns reminded them of how close they were to reaching states. Johns also told them to remember the feeling because he plans to get Nature Coast back to the region final next season.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.