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Football: Hernando becoming talk of the town

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Tue. October 20, 2009 | Izzy Gould | Email

Inevitably conversations this week have orbited around Nature Coast's 27-23 loss to Dunnellon - its second Class 3A, District 6 loss of the year.

Meanwhile, Hernando went about its business Friday routing Leesburg 41-28.

Suddenly, the Leopards (4-2, 3-1 in 3A-6) are in second place with three district games left and one spot ahead of the Sharks.

Hernando travels to Eustis (1-6, 1-3) this week, then hosts Citrus (2-5, 0-4). All that before what should be the biggest clash in Hernando County this season - a game against Nature Coast (4-2, 2-2) on Nov. 6.

That game will likely be for a playoff berth, but it also could signify a shift in local power.

Since getting its first playoff spot in 2006, Nature Coast has compiled a record of  24-9 with three playoff appearances. Two of those nine losses were in the playoffs, two were forfeits last season.

During that same span, Hernando has gone 7-23 including 3-7 in coach John Palmer's first season in 2008.

Many believed it was just a matter of time before Palmer would resurrect Hernando.

Palmer, a 1983 Hernando alumnus, came from Port St. Joe where he won five state titles, 232 games and had no losing seasons.

That experience has him understandably cautious about Hernando's new perch.

"This (winning) is all new for our kids and our team," Palmer said. "We are just trying to work on focusing on one week at a time. We're not looking down the road. We want to take care of business."

Hernando has succeeded thanks to a three-pronged rushing attack led by Alvin Delaine, who has rushed for 956 yards and 14 touchdowns. Delaine gives much thanks to his offensive line - Joe Bristol, Eric Miller, Kenny Brown, Justin Bland and Jordan Walker. And thanks to tight ends Robert Huggins and Mathew Johnson.

Also improving is quarterback Kall Daniel, who completed 5-of-8 passes for 37 yards and a touchdown last week.

"I don't know that they're playing harder," Palmer said of his team. "They're playing with more confidence. They're beginning to realize what the expectations are."

igould@sptimes.com

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