De'Vonta Smith

Rivera’s state title school year’s top story

Springstead 113-pounder Richie Rivera finishes off a takedown against Lleyton Taylor of Riverdale in their quarterfinal match in Class 2A state meet action. Rivera won 5-0. Photo by Matt Pfiffner/Citrus Chronicle

With the school year coming to a close in Hernando County, the time has come to reflect back on the 2016-17 prep sports season.
Success was spread out, with all six FHSAA-sanctioned schools boasting at least one district championship team, and the county had an Elite Eight squad in all three seasons, fall, winter and spring.
Here are the top three stories from the past 10 months of action:
1. Rivera overcomes adversity for state crown

Sports notebook: Eagles fall to powerhouse Vanguard

Photography by Alice Mary Herden and Cheryl Clanton

Springstead lost a regional quarterfinal at Ocala-Vanguard on Friday, 45-0. Photo by Alice Mary Herden

For Springstead’s football team, the return to the postseason after a two-season absence proved a short visit. But considering the task it faced, the result wasn’t unexpected.
The Eagles visited Ocala-Vanguard in a Class 6A, Region 2 quarterfinal on Friday night and suffered a 45-0 defeat.
Yet considering the Knights (9-1) boast several Division I prospects and averaged 45.7 points in the regular season with an average margin of victory of 41.4 points, it was no secret that Springstead (6-3) faced an uphill battle.

Bowl game a bitter end for Bears

Photography by Alice Mary Herden

Central senior De'Vonta Smith scored twice in Thursday's Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl at Hudson. Photo by Alice Mary Herden

HUDSON – At the end of the night, Central could still take solace in what it accomplished this season. But Thursday night simply wasn’t how the Bears wanted things to finish.
Traveling to Hudson for the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl, Central fell behind quickly and could never recover, as the host Cobras rolled to a 50-12 victory.

Bears left stunned in pivotal loss

Photography by Alice Mary Herden

Bears left stunned in pivotal loss

CRYSTAL RIVER – On Friday night, Central’s football team played its most important game in roughly a decade. Yet the Bears may have produced their worst performance of the season.
Host Crystal River managed to do what no team had, bottling up the state’s leading rusher De’Vonta Smith, and rolled to a shockingly lopsided 36-0 victory.

Smith comes up clutch for Central

Photography by Alice Mary Herden

Central's Jonathan Allion reaches out to make sure the ball crosses the goal line Saturday versus Citrus. Photo by Alice Mary Herden

BROOKSVILLE – It would seem odd that a player who rushed for over 400 yards and five touchdowns would be in a position to gain redemption on the game’s final drive.
Yet that’s where Central senior De’Vonta Smith found himself on Saturday late in the fourth quarter. He rushed for 335 yards and four scores in the first half, as the host Bears were running away from Citrus, up 34-7.
Then he fumbled three times in the second half, the Hurricanes scored 27 unanswered points, and somehow the game was tied with 4:54 remaining.

Sports notebook: Central’s Smith sets new county mark

Photography by Alice Mary Herden and Cheryl Clanton

Bears Devonta Smith breaks county record during the game against the Hornest Friday night at Central High School. Photo by Alice Mary Herden

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.

Central’s Smith ready for the spotlight

Photography by Alice Mary Herden

Central senior De'Vonta Smith rushed for 2,193 yards and 19 touchdowns last season. Photo by Alice Mary Herden

De’Vonta Smith ran for 2,193 yards and 19 touchdowns last season. Those numbers certainly are worthy of attention, yet he performed in relative anonymity throughout the 2015 campaign.
He ranked second in the state in rushing yards during the regular season, and still ended up fifth despite not having the opportunity to perform in the postseason.
So why didn’t the Central running back garner more headlines? It had to do with that one player in front of him in the stat rankings, who just happened to be from the same county.