BROOKSVILLE — In recent years, Nature Coast had become a machine.
The program was merciless, dominant and never had to claw back for a victory.
The Sharks were the meanest team on the North Suncoast, and everyone knew it, including the Florida High School Athletic Association and the Hernando County School Board.
The fallout from the resignation of former coach Jamie Joyner is well documented. The ripples from a program still broken swelled Friday night in a 27-23 district loss to Dunnellon.
The loss seriously threatened the Sharks' postseason hopes, but there are deeper issues to address.
It was the first homecoming loss in program history, the first home loss since a 17-13 defeat to Central in 2007.
"We understand this is a big loss," first-year coach Mark Lee said. "It digs us in a hole, no doubt about it. It doesn't mean we're going to be buried yet either."
Nature Coast (4-2, 2-2 3A-6) has been described this season as a second-half team, and again that proved true.
The Sharks took leads of 3-0 and 9-6 in the first quarter, but Dunnellon running back Bubba Black (36 carries, 195 yards, four touchdowns) was the showstopper rushing 19 times for 135 yards and three touchdowns in the first half for a 20-9 halftime lead.
Nature Coast recaptured some of its old fire, raging back in the third quarter.
Sharks running back Tevin Drake (22 carries, 125 yards, two touchdowns) scored his second touchdown of the night on a 12-yard run to cut the deficit to 20-13.
Then quarterback C.J. Baker (5-of-12 passing, 140 yards, one touchdown) connected with Braddie Ellison on an 87-yard catch and run to the end zone for a 23-20 lead in the third quarter.
The key was a fourth-quarter Dunnellon (6-1, 4-0) drive that gobbled up 17 plays for 80 yards, capped by Black's fourth score, a 13-yard touchdown run to go ahead 27-23.
Nature Coast had one more shot taking its last possession with four minutes, five seconds remaining on its 6-yard line. The Sharks had 17 plays and converted two fourth downs before Baker was sacked on fourth and 20 at the Tigers' 28 with six seconds left.
"It's a huge win for our program after the things they've done to us the past couple of years," Dunnellon coach Frank Beasley said.
"They really manhandled us. Our kids could have come in here not sure of themselves. They didn't do that. They came out and took control."
Izzy Gould can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 421-3886.