Sports notebook: Central’s Smith sets new county mark

Photography by Alice Mary Herden and Cheryl Clanton

So far this season, the same narrative has followed Central’s De’Vonta Smith. He has tried to escape the shadow of his cousin DeShawn Smith, who led the nation in rushing and scoring during a historic campaign with Nature Coast in 2015.
On Friday night, the senior running back managed to put together a statistical performance even his cousin never quite matched, setting a new county single-game rushing record in the Bears’ 63-28 thumping of Weeki Wachee.
Smith carried the ball 23 times for 491 yards, surpassing the 444 yards DeShawn Smith posted in last season’s regional semifinal win over River Ridge.
Additionally, De’Vonta Smith scored eight touchdowns, tying his cousin’s record which was ironically established against Central a year ago, the same game in which DeShawn Smith rushed for a then-record 413 yards.
“It means a lot, because after I leave Hernando County and go on to college playing at the next level, my name will still be here,” De’Vonta Smith said. “It’s something to remember me by. It was a special moment.
“I told (DeShawn) I was going to break it and he didn’t want to believe me. I told him, ‘I’ll show you. I’ll have a breakout game.’”
However, De’Vonta Smith admitted he didn’t know such a game would happen Friday until halftime, when Central head coach Chris Sands informed him how close he was to the mark. By the intermission he had 330 yards and five touchdowns.
During what was initially a back-and-forth first half, Smith scored on runs of 15, 51, 79, 1 and 9 yards, as the Bears built a 42-21 advantage after the game had been tied at 14.
Touchdowns of 55 and 73 yards in the third quarter initiated a running clock, and Smith tacked on a 68-yard score on a punt return later in the third before coming out of the game.
He credited his offensive line, particularly Lyndell Hudson, Josh Turner plus tight end Jonathan Allion, and pointed to fullbacks Kelvontae Roberts, Trevor Williams and Klayvon Clark for blocking the safeties.
“Without my O-line and my fullbacks, none of that would have been possible,” Smith said. “They rushed for 485. I just had the ball in my hands. They rushed for 485 with me.”
While Smith said he was motivated to prove last season, in which he rushed for 2,193 yards and 19 touchdowns, as no fluke, something else from outside the program had lit a bit of a fire under him and his coach.
“A couple of things were said in another paper last week by an area coach comparing him to another player and he took offense to that,” Sands said. “He wanted to make a statement. That kid works his tail off. It’s a testament to his camaraderie with the offensive line and how he does things in the classroom and the community. He’s just a great kid and he’s going make us all proud when he’s playing on Saturday next year.”
According to Smith, it was Springstead head coach Mike Garofano, who in a story published by the Tampa Bay Times last weekend said if the Eagles ran an offense that featured one player, his running back Randy Morgan could put up numbers comparable to those of both Smith and Nature Coast’s T.J. Owens.
“I had to go out there and show them,” Smith said. “I take little stuff like that and use it as motivation to push me. I had a great night.”
While Smith’s production was cause for celebration, the Bears (2-2 overall, 1-1 in Class 5A, District 7) came out on top in this year’s Battle of Hexam with the Hornets (0-4 overall, 0-1 5A-7). That means the traveling trophy between the two neighboring schools will reside with Central.
Allion caught a 16-yard touchdown from Izzy Zena to account for the Bears’ other scoring play. For Weeki Wachee, Alec Cromie threw touchdown passes to Sebastian Class, Shaun Young, Eli Mendoza and Diante Thomas.
It was a big bounce back for Central after the previous week’s blowout loss against Nature Coast.
“We wanted to make a statement. That game last week wasn’t us,” Sands said. “Nature Coast is the top team in the district and they’ll be the best in the district until someone knocks them off. But it frustrated us as a staff. We knew the team was better than last week.
“We wanted to put all three phases together. We just need to play a complete game. Hopefully people see that on film and know that Central is back.”
Elsewhere, Nature Coast rolled to a 51-7 victory at Crystal River. Quarterback Brian Haygood rushed for 162 yards and two touchdowns, and threw for two more scores. He even had two interceptions playing defense for the Sharks (4-0 overall, 2-0 5A-7).
A week after an impressive district triumph at Lecanto, Hernando fell flat in a 16-0 home loss to Citrus. Brad Ellis posted 10 tackles and two sacks, while Lawrence Sansone added 16 tackles for the Leopards (2-2 overall, 1-1 5A-7).
Hernando running back David Hale Bronson escapes from a Citrus defender with another in pursuit Friday night. Photo by Cheryl Clanton

“Our physical effort was good, but our execution was not what it has been. And not to take anything away from Citrus because their defense played very well,” Hernando head coach Bill Vonada said. “There were things there that we need to fix immediately that are mental, that we can fix. It’s things that we’ve been kind of talking about, but a couple guys are going to have to figure out we just can’t talk about it anymore, because it was kind of a difference.”
Hernando punter Brad Ellis gets a kick away during Friday's loss to Citrus. Photo by Cheryl Clanton

Springstead had a bye week. Meanwhile in 7-on-7 football, Spring Hill Christian Academy’s Coltin Suizdak scored 11 touchdowns in an 83-77 loss to Gainesville-Countryside Christian, giving him 18 scores in the past two weeks.
Hernando’s volleyball team captured back-to-back matches Monday and Tuesday, downing Lecanto (29-27, 25-22, 25-15) and Springstead (25-23, 25-15, 16-25, 25-20) respectively to improve to 11-3 overall (6-1 in 6A-7).
Weeki Wachee (8-6 overall, 5-2 6A-7) also notched a pair of district wins, besting Crystal River on Tuesday (14-25, 25-22, 25-21, 15-25, 18-16) and Citrus on Wednesday (25-15, 25-23, 18-25, 25-15). Miranda Werkmeister had 18 kills and 26 digs in the first match, while Sarah Asbury totaled 52 assists. Brooke Sereda tallied 12 kills against Citrus and Asbury had 31 assists.
Nature Coast (10-4 overall, 4-2 6A-7) defeated South Sumter on Wednesday, 25-9, 25-14, 25-10, and Lecanto on Thursday, 25-15, 24-26, 13-25, 26-24, 15-8.
In girls golf, Nature Coast won a tri-match at Oak Hill on Tuesday, scoring 179 compared to 255 by Hernando and 265 from Springstead. Skylar Muscianese shot a 38 over nine holes, with Alexis Dross adding a 43, Dawn Posey a 47 and Danielle Warnke a 51.
Two days later at Brooksville Country Club, the Lady Sharks beat Hernando again, 219-274. Muscianese and Dross both carded a 47. Ashley Carter led the Lady Leopards with a 59.
Nature Coast's Skylar Muscianese hits a tee shot during Thursday's match against Hernando at Brooksville Country Club. Photo by Alice Mary Herden

Nature Coast’s girls cross country team placed fourth in Mitchell’s Mike Holl Invitational on Saturday, scoring a 146 paced by Leah Marville’s seventh-place 22:52.40. Hernando finished eighth on the boys side at 264. Springstead’s Matt Levonick ran a sixth-place 18:12.50.
Follow Chris Bernhardt Jr. on Twitter @cpbernhardtjr.

Disqus Comments