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BROOKSVILLE — William Alderman couldn’t stop smiling. Couldn’t stop laughing. Heck, he couldn’t stop dancing.
“Do you mind,” he asked, then raced off to get funky with his Hernando teammates, the cheerleaders and the band, celebrating a decisive 21-0 victory over Nature Coast Tech.
It was senior night for the Sharks, but after a pregame walk to midfield with their parents, there wasn’t much to celebrate.
Hernando, on the other hand, had everything to celebrate.
“It’s the first time we’ve beaten them since I’ve been here,” said Alderman, a senior linebacker. “And it puts us in the playoffs for the first time in five years.”
Last year, the Leopards (8-1, 6-1) played in this same game to clinch a playoff spot. They stumbled and had to go to a Monday tiebreaker, where they fell short again.
Friday, they left little doubt. Their victory, combined with Dunnellon’s Class 3A, District 6-clinching win over Leesburg, gives the Leopards the runnerup spot and a first-round playoff game at North Marion Nov. 19.
After an ugly first 23 minutes that saw neither team gain any traction offensively — though Nature Coast missed three field goals — the Leopards dominated thanks to a smothering defense and scoring frenzy by star Alvin Delaine.
It started with a fumble recovery with one minute left in the first half, followed the very next play by Clevandre Pope’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Delaine, and continued into the second half, in which Hernando opened with a 12-play, 74-yard smash mouth touchdown drive to make it 14-0.
“We came out in the second half and did what we had to do,” said Delaine, who capped the opening drive with an 8-yard run.
The defense did the rest. Nature Coast (5-4, 3-4) was held to 142 total yards, though almost half that total came as the Sharks ran out the clock on the final drives of each half.
Delaine, who set the school record for career interceptions this season, added one more, picking off Brenton Nuby and returning it 66 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter.