By MEL SUITER
Photgraphy by BETTY KOLAR
BROOKSVILLE, Fla. — It was a perfect night for football, the temperature was comfortable and the drizzle only made the game that much more exciting for everybody inside the Shark Tank.
The small crowd that had gathered together to help cheer for Nature Coast Tech High School for a quarter final first round game against Citrus High School, Friday Nov. 8, 2019. The cheering didn’t stop through the falling temperature, the wind, the rain falling from the clouds and of course-the Sharks’ victory.
The sea of umbrellas started sprouting up throughout the football stands, like flowers, but the Sharks offense took no notice of the stands. Their focus was on a confident power running game against the Hurricanes that ended the Citrus High School 2019 football season. NCT defeated the Hurricanes 28-6 and the Sharks’ football season continues.
Citrus High School replaced former football coach Robert O’Brien who resigned his position recently. Stepping into the position as the new football coach for the Hurricanes is McKinley Franklin.
“The kids played good. I'm not disappointed in them at all. Of course, it’s always disappointing not to get the win and get to the next round,” Franklin said. “I love those 25 seniors. They deserve to be able to keep playing football. It’s just we played a good Nature Coast to clinch the district championship.”
Nature Coast Tech High School benefited from having the bye week Nov 1. There was some time for the Sharks to heal those nagging injuries that players get during the season. Then the Sharks took some time off and stepped away from the rigorous schedule that a football season produces.
Nature Coast Tech High School football coach Cory Johns said that his coaching staff and the players took advantage of the time off to prepare for Citrus High School but also took some time to rest.
The Hurricanes couldn’t stop the Sharks’ running attack. After the opening kick was returned by Sharks’ kickoff specialist, junior Kinyatah Morgan for 53 yards, the soaked playbook was opened by the Sharks.
“He is a phenomenal football player,” Johns said as he described Morgan and how important he is to the success for the Sharks. “He is a great kid that works his butt off.”
The game plan for the Sharks, a simple plan, just run the ball and force the Hurricanes to slow the Sharks down.
In the first quarter the Sharks scored two touchdowns with scoring drives that covered 31 yards and seven plays, 62 yards in five plays and the Sharks never felt threatened for the rest of the game.
Sharks running back Dedric Hall found out that he liked the weather in the end zone, as he crossed the goal line three times, with scoring runs of 7,5 and 7 yards for the Sharks.
The defense for the Sharks forced five turnovers, three interceptions from Citrus High School quarterback Conner Bishop and the defense for the Sharks recovered two fumbles.
Bishop and the offense felt the wave of the Sharks all game long, the pass rush came around the ends pinching the pocket. The defensive line plugged up the running gaps and the linebackers stopped the rushing attack.
There were no lanes to throw the football because of the pressure by the Sharks. Bishop found it very uncomfortable behind his offensive line, which was like the rain- it never let up and it just kept coming.
“They were great!” Johns said about the Sharks defense. “Dedric had two interceptions almost three. Had a bunch of fumbles, we could have recovered a few more that we didn’t get. They were great! They did a phenomenal job all week not being complacent. We have all ready done this, we have already talked about the changes. They did it with energy and focused and that was our two words for the week. They did that and it showed tonight.”
The chance for the shutout ended for the Sharks’ defense with 2:46 left in the game. Hurricane running back Zaire Wilcox crossed the goal line from 1-yard, ending a 12-play, 75 yard drive; the only score of the game for the Hurricanes.
“We got complacent at half time with how they were feeling. We didn’t finish, we could of had 56 or 60 points. We were in the red zone and that is what got us against Hernando, not finishing,” Johns said. “If we are going to win next week, we have to finish in the red zone and clean some of that stuff up.”
Next game for Nature Coast Tech High School will be against Jones High School and their explosive ground game. Jones High School defeated Bishop Moore 32-16, and now will be waiting for the Sharks.
The game will be at Jones High School located in Orlando, Florida, Nov 15, 2019. The kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Johns said sometimes in football it is all about timing, getting to the right place at the right time and just working hard to gain success. It sounds like Johns and the Sharks have found the right formula to continue the 2019 Nature Coast Tech High School football season-it just works.