A Hernando booster watches her final kickoff
I’ve seen a lot of unforgettable things in my (brief) career. I’ve seen fire at Daytona and a snowed-out signing day and frogs swimming in a baseball dugout.
But never have I seen anything like the kickoff to Friday’s Pasco-Hernando preseason game.
During pregame introductions, Hernando’s announcer asked for a moment of silence for Missy Bland, a longtime Leopards booster who died from cancer that week. She was 44.
“She was a faithful member of the Hernando Leopard Football Booster Club,” her online obituary reads, “and LOVED and SUPPORTED her Hernando Leopard Football boys.”
The booster club loved and supported her, too. Some of them held gold balloons in the stands in her memory at the game.
Moments before kickoff, the announcer asked the fans to look west, past the end zone, to Howell Avenue, where a white hearse had stopped traffic. Bland was here, the announcer told us, to watch the start of the game.
Hernando kicked off, and one of the North Suncoast’s top rivalries began, and the hearse pulled away, and Bland’s Leopards won the game.