MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
DL Malcolm Hudson/Darren Hambrick, Hernando: The Leopards’ defensive line dominated most of the game, and these two led the charge. Hudson had a late diving interception, while Hambrick had a big sack and batted down two passes in a 20-14 loss to Gainesville.
QB Cameron Stoltz/FB Jerome Samuels, Sunlake: Stoltz led a winning, 98-yard touchdown drive capped with his1-yard rush to upset Ocala Vanguard 22-21. Samuels’ two-point conversion completed the Seahawks’ first playoff victory.
ATH Janarion Grant, Pasco: The junior phenom had two first-half touchdowns — a 71-yard punt return and a 21-yard pass from Jacob Guy — and grabbed an interception in Pasco’s 21-14 win over Alachua Santa Fe.
Fivay’s defense: The Falcons held Citra North Marion without a touchdown pass and flustered the Colts in the second half with forced fumbles and defensive stands in a 28-0 loss.
Final thoughts on Hernando
1. The defense was one of the best in the North Suncoast. It corralled Gainesville well Friday night — until one disastrous 42-second span in the fourth quarter. The defense overcame an offense that had only one second-half first down.
2. Hernando can pass, too. The Leopards’ run-heavy offense totaled more passing yards (87) than rushing yards (49) in the first half, and its second-longest play of the second half was a pass to Marqui Redding. Expect more action through the air in the coming seasons.
3. The Leopards are definitely back. Their first district title in 14 years wasn’t a fluke. Coach John Palmer has rebuilt the program with back-to-back playoff berths. The future is bright with players like sophomore Jeremiah Jackson and junior Tyrail Hawkins, the star of Friday’s loss.
Final thoughts on Fivay
1. The Falcons are on the rise. A playoff appearance in their first year of all-varsity football is a remarkable achievement — and so is staying within four scores of a North Marion team that’s been nationally ranked by Rivals.com this season.
2. A handful of key transfers helped Fivay a lot, but their presence only did so much. Give credit to the coaches for building chemistry on a team with students from different schools and different backgrounds — and give credit to the players for coming together as a unit.
3. Defense will be the key going forward. In the two biggest games of the regular season, Fivay allowed 59 points (Pasco), 42 points (Zephyrhills), but it allowed only 28 points to Citra North Marion. If the Falcons can improve on that side of the ball, it can become a regular playoff contender in Pasco County.
“I’m really shocked. …I didn’t think I’d be in this position right now.” — Hernando defensive lineman Malcolm Hudson after Gainesville’s late rally ended the Leopards’ season.
Pasco (11-0) at Citra North Marion (9-2), Class 5A region semifinals: The Pirates have wanted North Marion since the summer. They’ll get the Colts and their stable full of Division I-A recruits in a game that could legitimize Pasco as a title contender.
Sunlake (10-1) at Gainesville (9-2), Class 6A region semifinals: Both teams needed long, late scoring drives — 98 yards for Sunlake to upset Ocala Vanguard, and 91 for Gainesville to edge Hernando. Can the road-tested Seahawks keep the best season in school history going?