With simultaneous sleekness, Hernando Christian has played over its head and under the radar this season. Because HCA is a playoff-ineligible, small private school, few have noticed it is enjoying the finest autumn of its five-year existence.
With a victory Nov. 1 against Canterbury, the Lions (7-0) advance to the inaugural title game of the nine-team Sunshine State Athletic Conference, which still causes coach David Raley to pinch himself. Three months ago, when attrition was gutting his roster, Raley said he never could have dreamed such a season unfolding.
"I can't put into words what 7-0 means to me personally," said Raley, who estimates he lost 16 players in the offseason. "And also what it means to our school because of all the things that happened to us over the summer. We really in a lot of ways felt defeated, but these kids came together and worked very, very hard. They're a very special bunch."
How special? We'll let a few numbers tell the story.
1 Lions player — senior two-way lineman Josh Romeo — who plays all 48 minutes, a fairly astounding number for a program of HCA's size. Raley says he has other two-way starters, but Romeo is the only one who doesn't platoon with anyone else.
2 Nights, according to Raley, that senior quarterback David Rotteveel was hospitalized with a bruised kidney after a 52-6 win over Leesburg First Academy. Raley said Rotteveel was hurt when he was hit from his blind side just as he unleashed a pass. The ball fluttered, resulting in Rotteveel's only interception of the year.
4 Interceptions by sophomore Ian Townsend
5 Games in which the Lions have allowed seven or fewer points
7 Lions victories so far this year, a program single-season record
26 Players on HCA's roster
33.1 Lions' per game scoring average
40 Approximate number of players Raley expected to have before attrition set in. "We were in the process of going out and buying a whole bunch more equipment for this (season)," Raley said. "When we lost 16 kids off our roster, we had to go out and retool. We had to totally rebuild our offense."
248 Average weight of the Lions' six offensive linemen, another staggering number for a small school. The typical starting line consists of TE Garrett Mikkola, RT Kevin Wilcher, RG Ben Clark, C Ethan Whitten, LG Josh Westfall and Romeo. "I love to talk about the line because they're the kids that make it go," Raley said.