I didn’t exactly go out on a limb, but I picked Gainesville to knock off Hernando in tonight’s Class 6A region quarterfinal.
You’re welcome, Leopards fans.
I don’t pretend to be an expert at picking games. If I had a good crystal ball, I’d spend my days working at a poker table in Vegas, not covering football.
But I’ve been awful with Hernando’s most important games. Terrible. Horrible.
Since I started at the Times in July 2011, the Leopards have played about six big-time games. I’m 1-5.
Let’s start with last year:
Land O’Lakes (2011)
I've waffled all week on the two banged-up teams, but I'll give Jackson Cannon and the Gators' D a slight edge in a physical contest. Land O'Lakes, 17-14
What happened: Hernando, 28-7
Expect a close, bruising defensive battle. I'll take my chances on Seahawks QB Cameron Stoltz in the clutch. Sunlake, 21-20
Hernando has improved as the year has gone on, but injuries take their toll. Gainesville, 21-20
It didn’t get much better this fall:
Hernando has the most talent in the district but hadn't put it together until last week. But Sunlake's defense has improved, and the Seahawks have a speedy ground game that can give the Leopards trouble. The Seahawks get revenge by eking out a close win. Sunlake, 17-14
I thought I figured it out after that. Hernando is clearly better than I thought. I’ve underestimated the Leopards all along. Let’s fix that.
Springstead's discipline and hard-working approach have served the Eagles well so far, and it will keep the game close. But Hernando has more speed and athleticism. The Leopards get a big play late from (Tyrail) Hawkins to take a close win. Hernando, 17-14
OK, so maybe Hernando isn’t as good as I believed. Let’s try again.
Nature Coast (2012)
NCT's offense is gaining balance alongside star RB Matt Breida. A big pass play late will be the difference and help the Sharks earn an upset victory. NCT, 28-27
Which brings us to tonight’s game. I picked a Gainesville win (31-13), which is probably good news for the Leopards. Except that one correct game I’ve picked? That was against Gainesville in last year’s playoffs.