Thursday, April 26, 2018

Region football: Clay 41, Hernando 37

BROOKSVILLE – For much of the season, Ygenio Booker was the second or third option for Hernando’s explosive offense. With the season on the line in Friday night’s Class 5A region quarterfinal, the Leopards leaned on their best athlete, and he responded to the challenge.

Hernando hung tough with state powerhouse Clay before succumbing 41-37 at Tom Fisher Memorial Stadium.

"This is a great group of guys that bought in," Hernando coach Bill Vonada said. "We didn’t play a perfect game, but we put up a great effort against one of the more storied programs in this state."

The Leopards (7-3) won the coin toss and surprised many by deferring after Vonada had preached controlling the clock against the Blue Devils (8-3). After giving up a score on the opening drive — Clay tailback Aundre Carter rushed for a 1-yard touchdown — the Leopards responded immediately.

After breaking a 13-yard run on his first carry, Booker took his next pitch 52 yards to the end zone to tie the score.

"Early in the year, one of the questions was how to get (Booker) the ball," Vonada said. "He really peaked for us as the year went on, and he began to understand the offense. He made some big plays (Friday night), and that’s what opened up the other stuff for us."

The teams went back and forth for 18 minutes, sitting at 21-21 midway through the second quarter.

Hernando junior cornerback Shemar Lawson picked off Clay quarterback Caleb Eason and returned the interception 59 yards to the Blue Devils’ 1-yard line. Leopards fullback Izzy Fields (13 carries, 76 yards, two touchdowns) plunged in for his 16th touchdown of the season. For Eason, the interception was his second of the year.

A Booker 29-yard kickoff return set up kicker Luke D’Ambrosio’s 26-yard field goal as time expired in the first half. Hernando trailed 34-23 going into the locker room.

Vonada knew the key to getting back in the game was the strategy he intended on employing heading into the contest. Receiving the second-half kickoff, the Leopards started at their 30. The drive went 14 plays and lasted over eight minutes, ending with Fields rushing for another 1-yard score to cut the deficit to 34-30.

A huge fourth-down stop of Carter (29 carries, 279 yards, three touchdowns) on the 1 gave the Leopards possession to start the fourth quarter. They went 99 yards on nine plays, with Booker catching a 9-yard touchdown pass from Boston Tafelski (7-of-11, 90 yards, one touchdown, one interception, 12 carries, 81 yards) to give Hernando its first lead of the night, 37-34.

In the end, the Leopards left too much time on the clock for the Blue Devils’ offense. Carter scored on a 1-yard run with 3:54 left, and an interception of a Tafelski pass intended for Booker proved to be the final nail.

"I felt like we had one more big play left (for Booker)," Vonada said. "Unfortunately, we just ran out of time."

Booker finished the night with seven carries for 92 yards, five catches for 80 yards and three touchdowns.

"I noticed a different level of play (from Clay), but I got used to it," Booker said. "I was just thinking about playing like every play was my last down. It’s my senior year. All gas, no brakes."

Softball: Plant City perfect in district finals with Ashley Bullion on mound

Softball: Plant City perfect in district finals with Ashley Bullion on mound

PLANT CITY — Plant City softball coach Ashley Bullion is 4-for-4 after Thursday night.Four years at the helm, four district titles.The latest championship came in a 4-1 victory over East Bay in the Class 8A, District 6 final, a victory highligh...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Softball: Recent momentum carries Mitchell past Sunlake

LAND O' LAKES — Despite being on the wrong end of two lopsided outcomes to Sunlake during the regular season, recent events gave Mitchell hope in its Class 7A-10 district final rematch with the Seahawks.Just two days prior, the Mustangs be...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Softball: Robinson makes it 10 straight wins vs. Jefferson

TAMPA — For the Robinson softball team, the perfect 10 was complete.The top-seeded Knights defeated No. 2 Jefferson for the 10th consecutive time Thursday and claimed their fifth district championship in a row, a 12-2 five-inning victory in the...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Softball: It’s April, so Chamberlain is winning

TAMPA — Coach Bob Diez and his Chamberlain Chiefs have always believed in this motto: "Be good in April."This is their season.The Chiefs added another Class 7A-8 district title Thursday against Gaither with a 7-0 victory.With the win, the ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Softball: East Lake is aggressive from the start

TARPON SPRINGS — If strong pitching and defense are the bellwethers of a deep playoff run, consider East Lake ready.Playing second seed Pinellas Park on Thursday night for the Class 8A-7 title, the host Eagles (22-3) used that philosophy to mak...
Updated: 1 hour ago
NFL draft: Patriots pick Lakewood alum Isaiah Wynn at No. 23

NFL draft: Patriots pick Lakewood alum Isaiah Wynn at No. 23

Lakewood High alumnus and former Georgia offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn was drafted No. 23 overall Thursday by the Patriots.Wynn becomes one of the highest drafted offensive linemen in Tampa Bay history and the first Pinellas County player to go in th...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Softball: River Ridge shuts out rival Land O’Lakes

NEW PORT RICHEY — River Ridge coach Kurt Goluba must have known his team was ready to win its first district championship since 2015, as they got shirts that read "TBTT."Take back the title.That's exactly what the Royal Knights (...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Softball: Consistency returns to Newsome’s pitching plan

LITHIA — Through two innings of Thursday's Class 9A, District 8 championship, Newsome coach Autumn Dunn had seen this script before.Freshman pitcher Kaitlyn Felton wasn't laboring. But Alonso had put the leadoff batter on base in both innings. ...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Softball: Freedom wins first Class 8A, District 4 title

PLANT CITY — Freedom went on a charmed run to reach the state semifinals in 2013.It was the last time the Patriots made the playoffs.On Thursday, they returned to the postseason, this time by taking their first district title.Better still,...
Updated: 2 hours ago

High school scoreboard for April 26

Thursday’s scoreboardBaseballPCAC Championship: Northeast 6, Dunedin 5SoftballClass 3A, District 5 Semifinal: Admiral Farragut 10, Indian Rocks Chr. 0Boys TennisClass 3A, District 9-10 Final: Osceola 4, Braden River 2Girls TennisClass 3A, District 9-...
Updated: 2 hours ago