Central quarterback Sebastian Rivera remained in critical condition in a Bayonet Point hospital Friday night, but his presence was felt at both football games held in Hernando County.
Sadly, the 16-year-old, having suffered severe injuries in a motorcycle accident on Tuesday, passed away on Sunday. “We lost one of our brothers today and not much words can say how wonderful a person Sebastian was,” Central head coach Chris Sands said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and the community. We miss him. We really do. We love him with all our hearts. He knows that... We’ll take it one day at a time. You can’t really have a plan in a situation like this. We’ll take it one day at a time and go from there.”
With Rivera still fighting for his life, the Bears took the field Friday at Weeki Wachee, providing an emotional element to the “Battle of Hexam” as well as the Hornets’ homecoming festivities.
Central middle linebacker Josh Rivera not only played but donned his brother’s number 3 jersey. In a prearranged tribute, the Bears came out without a quarterback on the first play from scrimmage, taking a delay of game penalty. Weeki Wachee then purposely jumped offsides to negate the loss of yardage.
What transpired the rest of the way was an exciting contest eventually won by the host Hornets, 28-27. “It was the biggest crowd ever at Weeki Wachee. It was really awesome,” Weeki Wachee head coach Mark Lee said. “It was a great game, too. The second half was very exciting. They had momentum in the first half and we had momentum in the second half.”
The Bears (2-3 overall, 0-2 Class 5A, District 7) built a 21-6 lead by halftime, as De’Vonta Smith ran 26 times in the game for 154 yards and scored four times. But the Hornets (2-2 overall, 1-0 5A-7) rallied back and went in front on a Shawn O’Gorman 8-yard touchdown with 7:32 remaining. Smith responded with his final score, from two yards out at the 3:10 mark, but he could not cash in on the 2-point conversion that would have put Central on top. Alec Cromie had a 40-yard touchdown pass to Eli Mendoza and a 1-yard rushing touchdown. Dalton Tolbert returned a fumble recovery for a score and Montae Bostick carried the ball 13 times for 102 yards, and ran in a couple of 2-point tries.
Over at Nature Coast, “Pray for 3” was spelled out on the fences behind both end zones, and two moments of silence were held to honor Rivera, including during the opening kickoff as fans put three fingers in the air. DeShawn Smith continued a nearly unfathomable senior season for the Sharks, running for 312 yards on 18 carries and scoring five touchdowns.
His last trip to the end zone came on a 67-yard rush with 20 seconds remaining, as Nature Coast defeated visiting Crystal River, 39-33. “It was an ugly one, but at the end of the day a win is a win. That’s all that matters at the end of the day,” Smith said. “We didn’t play how we wanted to. We always like to dominate. But if you dig down deep and get the ‘W’ that’s all that matters at the end of the day. “I was a little upset (prior to the game-winning score). The line blocks; we keep our deal, they block, I score. That’s our deal.” Smith has now rushed for 1,399 yards and 24 touchdowns, only halfway through the season. His performance was huge in particular after the Sharks (5-0 overall, 2-0 5A-7) blew a 26-7 lead in the second half. Antonio Franklin ran for 220 yards and three touchdowns for the Pirates, and added a 2-point conversion that knotted the score at 33 with 1:05 remaining. “It’s kind of the same old thing. We played really well in spots. We don’t feel like we played well for 48 full minutes yet,” Nature Coast head coach Justin Worden said. “We tell the kids, ‘Just imagine how things would look if we put four full quarters together.’ I don’t feel like we’ve done it yet." He continued, “Obviously a little frustrated. We’ve got to be a lot better defensively, especially when we look at big picture and we’re wanting to get to the playoffs and win some playoff games, which is a while down the road. We’ve got a lot of work to do first... We take it week by week. We tell them stats are greats but wins are what matters. Right now we’re 5-0, so that’s big.”
Hernando got its first win of the year, 7-6 at Citrus. Jacob Valentino’s 1-yard touchdown run with six minutes left was all the Leopards (1-4 overall, 1-1 5A-7) needed. Valentino ran for 91 yards on 31 rushes, while Christian Dowdell totaled 96 yards on 11 carries.
Springstead was off this week, attempting to regroup after a 1-3 start.
Weeki Wachee volleyball went 3-0 this week, improving to 9-7 overall and 7-2 in 5A-7. The big win came Tuesday over first-place Crystal River, 23-25, 25-21, 25-21, 26-24, to avenge a loss to the Lady Pirates (7-1 5A-7) last month. Miranda Werkmeister had 12 kills and Mariann Flaherty added 10. Werkmeister and Zoe Murchio each had 22 digs, and Sarah Asbury totaled 39 assists.
Hernando (8-7 overall, 5-4 5A-7) defeated Nature Coast on Tuesday, 25-13, 25-7, 25-16, but fell at Crystal River on Thursday, 20-25, 25-11, 25-18, 25-20. Ali Bronson posted 18 kills and 41 digs against the Lady Sharks.
Springstead suffered a 25-21, 25-20, 25-22 loss to 6A-8 leading Mitchell on Tuesday, falling to 1-3 in the district.
The Nature Coast boys golf team moved to 7-0-1 by defeating Crystal River and Dunnellon on Thursday, 174-185-223. Tyler Bismarck shot a nine-hole 39 to lead the Sharks.
On Tuesday at Seven Hills Golf Course, Nature Coast had slipped by Springstead, 188-192. Glen Richard led the Sharks with a 44 and Ryan Maharaj paced the Eagles with the same score.