BROOKSVILLE — The team that Hernando was expected to be following last season's district championship hasn't come into focus in the Leopards' first two games.
That performance continued in Friday's 38-6 loss to South Sumter.
Hernando (0-3) started the game better than the previous two weeks, holding the Red Raiders (3-0), which had scored 132 points in the first two weeks combined, to only 13 at the half. The Leopard defense thrived on penetration and was holding South Sumter's deep backfield to less than 4 yards per carry.
Field position caught up to Hernando over the course of the game. Red Raider punter Clay Simmons twice pinned the Leopards inside their own 5. The second half opened with two three and outs for Hernando as well.
Simmons, also the Red Raiders quarterback, tossed two more touchdown passes, bringing his season total to eight without an interception. Both scoring connections went to lead receiver Ladovick Gibson (three receptions, 52 yards). It was the second week in a row Gibson caught two touchdowns.
Tyrail Hawkins (3-of-6, 8 yards, one interception, five carries, 20 yards, three catches, 21 yards) had his worst offensive performance since his sophomore season from a yardage standpoint, while Ra'shaad Hart saw the majority of snaps under center for the first time this season.
"We need to pass the ball more," Hernando coach Dwayne Mobley said. "It comes down to our offensive line stopping the defense and giving our quarterback time."
Mobley pointed out that he was searching for a way to get his playmakers more ways to touch the ball. Hart (4-of-7, 29 yards, 15 carries, 42 yards) looked effective in the role.
For South Sumter, one of the premier programs in the state, it was the seventh straight victory over Hernando since 1997. It left Mobley grasping for answers heading into next week's district opener against Land O'Lakes.