BROOKSVILLE — After last season, the players and coaches at Nature Coast had a sour taste in their mouths, but Friday night's 34-3 victory over Hernando couldn't have been sweeter.
Nature Coast (8-0, 4-0) missed out on the Class 3A, District 6 title and a chance to host a playoff game in 2007. After an undefeated start to this season, the Sharks avoided that same fate, clinching the crown against the rival Leopards.
"What happened last season was very disappointing," Nature Coast coach Jamie Joyner said. "This was our goal from the beginning of the season, and this is where we expected to be."
While the offense sputtered and the penalties piled up for the host Sharks, the defense and special teams stole the show. Nature Coast forced four turnovers (one interception, two fumble recoveries, and one blocked punt) and returned three of those takeaways for touchdowns. However, the Sharks did put up a season-high 18 penalties for 140 yards, disappointing Joyner.
"We didn't have the penalty problem earlier this year, and it's very frustrating to see," Joyner said. "(The penalties) put us in a tough position offensively."
Hernando (3-5, 1-2) played well defensively but Nature Coast running back Tevin Drake still racked up a game-high 136 yards on 17 carries with two touchdowns. The total contributed to a ground attack that totaled 220 yards overall. Drake's two scores pushed his season total to 17.
Hernando running back Alvin Delaine was the lone bright spot for the visiting team. Delaine finished the night with 84 of Hernando's 121 yards of total offense (54 rushing, 30 receiving).