Citrus coach Gene Roberts stood beneath an umbrella for his postgame chat with reporters, but it was Hernando High's Mike Imhoff who could have been singing in the rain Friday night.
As it was, Imhoff had to do his best Gene Kelly imitation to sidestep an on-rush of Happy Birthday-wishing players toting a pair of water buckets.
"We do make things interesting," Imhoff was telling Hernando athletic director Ernie Chatman before only semi-successfully avoiding the dousing.
As wet as he was anyway, a little extra water wasn't about to harm Imhoff. He went right on talking about his Leopards, 14-13 winners over the Hurricanes in a non-district game at soggy Tom Fisher Stadium Friday night.
"We needed that for our football team," said Imhoff, whose Leopards, coming off a 35-14 loss to South Sumter last week, improved to 2-2 overall and 2-1 in the Gulf Coast Conference.
"We needed that for our kids, because some people were saying they might have quit in a couple of games. I still think we have a pretty good ball club."
Roberts concurred and, despite its first loss, thought his own ball club was pretty good, too.
"Our kids played very intense football," Roberts said. "We played great together as a team."
After previously meeting teams that owned a combined record of 0-9 before Friday, the Hurricanes (now 3-1 overall, 1-1 in the GCC) were playing their first game against an opponent with a victory.
The Leopards, meanwhile, had opened against teams that collectively compiled a 7-1 record in the season's first three weeks.
Hernando tried showing it may be better than its record indicates by stuffing the ball down Citrus throats, running the ball on 45 of its 49 offensive plays.
Senior tailback Jermaine Green got the bulk of the work, churning out 201 yards on 26 carries and catching a 5-yard pass from Shad Reese.
"He had 200 yards rushing?" Roberts asked. "That's pretty good."
Green, who had seven double-digit gains, also had a 1-yard touchdown in the second quarter. His carries of 13 and 22 yards, and a 25-yard pass from Reese to Rodney Addison, set up Rob O'Banner's game-tying 2-yard touchdown run.
Kicker Roger Kennedy added the game-winning point-after with a little more than 4 minutes remaining.
Kennedy's heroics came one drive after Citrus quarterback John Autry broke a 7-7 halftime lead with a 13-yard touchdown run. Kicker Shawn Nolan's point-after attempt was unsuccessful.
Kennedy's conversion helped atone for two earlier specialty teams miscues, one of which was a strange play that actually worked in favor of the Leopards.
Defensive end Chad McDaniel, who recovered two fumbles, led a surge of Hurricanes in blocking a 31-yard field goal try by Kennedy in the second quarter. A 'Cane recovered the ball but fumbled, giving Hernando a first down. Four plays later, Green scored.
In the fourth quarter, Kennedy was to punt from Hernando's 35. But his knee touched the ground, giving Citrus the ball at the 22. Two plays later, Autry scored.
After Green and Kennedy answered, the Hurricanes took over with 4:23 remaining. Richard Stokes, who scored Citrus' first touchdown on a 13-yard run in the opening quarter, picked up a first down with a 12-yard gain.
But Hernando's defense, led by linebacker Tom Valdez, responded.
Stokes was tackled for a loss, Travis Merritt sacked Autry and Autry threw an incomplete pass. With a little more than 2 minutes remaining, Roberts opted to punt. Damon Bogart got off a 66-yarder, but the Leopards were able to run out the clock after Green picked up a first down with a 6-yard gain.
Hernando held Citrus Rob Malpica, second-leading rusher on the North Suncoast behind Green, to 80 yards on 20 carries. The Leopards forced five Citrus fumbles, three of which the 'Canes lost.
Despite a constant rain , Roberts was not about to dance his way out of explaining the loss with any weather-based excuses.
"It hurt us as much as it hurt them," Roberts said. "If it hadn't been like this, it might have been 34-33."
Hudson 14, Central 13
BROOKSVILLE _ Central's Class 3A, District 7 title hopes slipped away along with the football in Friday's 14-13 non-conference loss to Hudson in wet conditions at Central's stadium.
A couple of dropped passes and a mishandled extra point snap sealed the Bears' fate on an evening when neither team had much luck hanging on to the ball.
Central (2-2 overall, 0-2 in 3A-7) fumbled the ball three times, recovering twice. The one time the Bears failed to recovered was costly, as quarterback Tyrone Goodson's bobble on anexchange set up Hudson's winning score.
Central did move the ball more effectively on the ground than the Cobras, racking up 161 yards on 43 carries (a 3.7 yard average), including 75 yards by senior Deo Wyatt, whose 23-yard gallop up the middle set up the first Bear touchdown.
Wyatt also led the team in receiving with 67 yards on three catches, including a 26-yard grab on third-and-12 that sustained Central's final scoring drive.
Springstead 3, Gulf 0
The stage was set for another Springstead loss. On a rainy night in New Port Richey, the Eagles were being stymied by the stubborn Gulf High Buccaneers through four quarters of scoreless play.
But head coach Bill Browning had a warm feeling.
"We've lost two heartbreakers this year already," Browning said. "I just sensed that they would find a way to pull it out."
Big Ed Chester supplied that break when he pounced on a Buccaneer fumble on the third play of the tie-breaking overtime. Rene Vasquez made it count with a 22-yard field goal on Springstead's ensuing series for a plodding 3-0 victory.
Springstead's second consecutive victory pushed its season record to 2-2 and Class 4A, District 8 mark to 1-1 _ back in the thick of the balanced chase.
The Bucs threw a scare into the Eagles in the third quarter when quarterback Julius Mendoza broke free on a bootleg. One of the officials was fooled by his play fake, though, and blew the play dead behind the line of scrimmage. Mendoza was 25 yards downfield with the ball, but the down was replayed.
"Sometimes you get calls like that and sometimes you don't," Browning said. "Whether they would have scored or not, I don't know. But it would have been a heck of a gain for them."
The Eagles missed chances, too, with three turnovers and three holding penalties on critical plays, including a Stefan Perea-to-Jim Greco pass to the Gulf 4-yard line in the first quarter.