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Nature Coast's defensive effort secures tiebreaker win

Nature Coast’s Isaac Bailey heads for the end zone after intercepting Hernando quarterback Kall Daniel’s first pass attempt. Daniel, right, didn’t catch Bailey, who went 39 yards for the score.

Maurice Rivenbark | Times

Nature Coast’s Isaac Bailey heads for the end zone after intercepting Hernando quarterback Kall Daniel’s first pass attempt. Daniel, right, didn’t catch Bailey, who went 39 yards for the score.

BROOKSVILLE — The adjustment was subtle.

In the three days since Nature Coast faced Hernando, the Sharks opted to eliminate a defensive cushion in favor of tight man defense. They also wanted to keep pressuring quarterback Kall Daniel.

It all came together on Hernando's first pass attempt Monday night.

Daniel's dart zipped right into the arms of Sharks junior Isaac Bailey, who swallowed the pass and broke free in the opposite direction, weaving through missed tackles 39 yards to the end zone.

Bailey — who had three interceptions against Hernando in two nights — and the Sharks' defense suffocated Hernando in a 14-0 win to take a three-way tiebreaker.

The victory returns Nature Coast to the playoffs after it went 9-0 last season before being disqualified for its final two games.

"I wasn't here last year," Nature Coast coach Mark Lee said. "I can only imagine what it felt like for these kids to have that taken away from them."

The Sharks were in jeopardy of being knocked from the playoffs after losses to Crystal River and Dunnellon. But Friday's 22-20 win at Hernando forced Monday's three-way tiebreaker.

Because Nature Coast had the better overall record, Hernando and Crystal River battled first.

After a scoreless quarter, Hernando scored in overtime when Daniel hit Ian Townsend in the end zone on the first play for a 7-0 lead.

Combined, Hernando collected just 49 yards of offense Monday night.

"The defenses played well," Hernando coach John Palmer said. "We didn't move the ball offensively. I don't know why yet. We really struggled offensively."

Crystal River had four plays to answer but could not move the ball, sending the Leopards into the final quarter against Nature Coast.

After Nature Coast went four-and-out, Bailey lit the fuse with his interception return.

"They were killing us the other night, dumping it out in the flat," Sharks defensive coordinator Charles Liggett said. "It just happened to be lucky, right? … The kids on defense had something to prove."

Before kickoff Liggett awarded Bailey the huge chain given to the defensive player of the week. Bailey wanted to keep the defense rolling.

Nature Coast took its last offensive drive 80 yards and ate up almost five minutes, capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback C.J. Baker.

In all, the Sharks had pass breakups by Bailey, Antwan Story and the final one by Ja'Juan Story with 22 seconds left to seal the victory.

"We're playing as one now," Sharks senior Tevin Drake said. "That loss (to Dunnellon) really made us connect. … We're playing Nature Coast football."

Nature Coast's defensive effort secures tiebreaker win 11/09/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 9, 2009 11:12pm]
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