BROOKSVILLE — A season after suffering a tough loss on its home turf, East Ridge turned the tables on Hernando in its trip to Tom Fisher Memorial Stadium on Friday night.
The Leopards fell 42-25 to the Knights in the season opener exactly one year after Hernando won 42-26 against the same team.
Hernando (0-1) was led for first the time officially by former star running back Dwayne Mobley on the sidelines. With his direction, the Leopards seemed to have things under control, jumping out to a 19-7 lead in the first half behind three touchdowns from Division-I recruit Tyrail Hawkins (two rushing, one passing).
"This is a real eye opener for us," Mobley said. "We showed up to play against Pasco (last week), but every player has to show up every game for us to win."
Hawkins, who played quarterback most of the game, became a target for the Knight defense and was contained as much as possible. The strategy began to work as East Ridge (1-0) forced four turnovers.
On the other side of the ball, the Knights used a slow-down pace to hammer away at the unusually flimsy Hernando defense. With a lot of missed and broken tackles, Knights running back Marcus Watson chewed up 144 yards on 20 carries, including a 44-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
Once the Leopards tried to load the box to stop the option attack, East Ridge quarterback Alex Howell aired it out to standout receiver Mike King (five catches, 118 yards, two touchdowns). East Ridge scored 28 consecutive points to run away with the game.
Hawkins finished the game with 305 yards of total offense (146 passing, 157 rushing) and four touchdowns on 27 touches, but he also had a few miscues in his first game, throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble on a punt return.
Hernando, which began last season 1-2 before winning its district, will try to straighten things out next week when the team travels to South Lake.