I haven’t been here long enough for many of you to get to know me, but here’s one thing you’ll find out: When I’m wrong, I’ll admit it.
And I was wrong on Hernando-Sunlake.
Either I overestimated how strong and physical the Seahawks are, or I underestimated how strong and physical Hernando is. I’ll go with the latter.
Regardless, the Leopards’ power and aggression decided the game. Defensive intensity kept Sunlake scoreless on three trips inside the 32 in the first half. The bruising offensive line changed the game in the second quarter.
In the first quarter, Hernando had 19 yards. Check out the Leopards’ first drive of the second quarter: 9-yard rush, 16-yard rush, 9-yard rush, 7-yard rush…you get the idea. Ten runs of at least four yards, including a 5-yard rush by Jeremiah Jackson.
Hernando pressured Sunlake QB Cameron Stoltz on the next play – and he was intercepted, setting up a 29-yard touchdown pass for Hernando from Cleve Pope to Terrence Owens. That was the game.
I’ll touch on physical play in my final analysis from the three keys to the game:
1. Cameron Stoltz and the big play: Didn’t really happen. Sunlake had three passes of 20 yards or more but did nothing with them. Part of it was Hernando’s defensive front, which pressured Stoltz and sacked him four times in the second half. Part of it was also the Leopards’ speed in the secondary. Tyrail Hawkins knocked down two passes in the end zone that could have changed the game.
2. Hernando’s speed vs Sunlake’s strength: Advantage, Hernando. The Leopards flew to the ball and ran around some of Sunlake’s linemen. They kept Rashaud Daniels and Sunlake’s other athletes from getting to the sidelines where they’re dangerous. The Seahawks opened a few holes up the middle early, but they closed as the game wore on. I heard some very hard hits on the sidelines today – I think I’m going to need to ice down when I get home.
3. Turnovers: Sunlake’s only score came after Hernando fumbled at its own 15. The Leopards intercepted Stoltz twice to kill two drives and stopped the Seahawks four times on fourth down. If Sunlake had converted on one of those drives – or avoided momentum-draining picks – it’s a different ball game. Give credit to Hernando for forcing the two interceptions and two early turnovers on downs to seize this win, stay perfect and the district and prove me wrong.