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Hernando knew it would have to build this season's running game without star running back Alvin Delaine, who graduated in the spring.
Now the Leopards will have to do it without one of their top returning rushers.
Running back Scooter Maner will likely miss the entire season with a knee injury, Leopards assistant Tom Bronson said Wednesday. Maner was on crutches during last week's 17-0 loss to Pasco in a preseason game.
Maner, a shifty 5-foot-8, 175-pound senior, rushed for 245 yards last fall and was second on the team with five rushing touchdowns.
"It's a terrible blow to our offense," Bronson said, "but once again, we have to look at some of the young guys to step up and play."
One of the most likely replacements is fullback Jeremiah Jackson.
The bruising 6-foot-1, 205-pound sophomore rushed 12 times for 60 yards against the Pirates. Hernando coaches think Jackson's size, strength and versatility will help him develop into a Division-I prospect.
"He's phenomenal," Bronson said. "Phenomenal runner, phenomenal athlete."
The Leopards remain unsure whether head coach John Palmer will be on the sidelines in Friday's regular season opener against East Ridge.
Palmer missed last week's preseason game to rest after complications from an offseason medical procedure. Bronson said Hernando's head coach was at work for part of Tuesday but did not attend practice.
"Hopefully he'll be ready to go Friday," Bronson said.