Eric Riggins knew he and his Hernando High teammates were better than Hudson. But he didn't expect Friday's 55-20 thrashing that clinched an elusive state playoff berth for the Leopards.
"We figured it would be easy," Riggins said. "But not this easy."
And after years of struggling to reach the state playoffs, Hernando waltzed in Friday. The victory gave the Leopards a 4-0 mark in Class 4A, District 7 with one game remaining Nov. 4 at arch-rival Pasco, which is also 4-0. The top two teams in each district advance and both have clinched. It will be Hernando's first playoff appearance since 1981.
Riggins made sure of that Friday as he rushed for 138 yards and three touchdowns on just seven carries. He scored on runs of 29, 34 and 28 yards.
"We knew if we played up our level we would blow them out," Riggins said. "This was a district game we needed to get in the playoffs and we played up to our potential."
Including quarterback Shad Reese. He rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns and completed 4-of-7 passes for 107 and one touchdown.
"This game lets us know what we can do," said Reese, who nearly matched his season total of 120 yards passing. "But this game really wasn't that much of test for us."
The one Nov.
4 at Pasco will be.
"They're a good team," Riggins said. "It will take four quarters of good football to beat them."
The easy victory over Hudson gave coach Mike Imhoff an opportunity to experiment with his offense. Hernando ran from the wishbone and passed from the shotgun for the first time this season.
"We were able to do some things we've been working on in practice and it worked real well," Imhoff said. "The kids played a great game. It feels great to get to the playoffs."
Zephyrhills recovers to beat Bears
BROOKSVILLE _ Turnovers were the fourth-quarter trend in Central's 27-26 overtime loss to Zephyrhills, as one by each team led to the other's final touchdown in regulation play.
Three plays into the final quarter, Marc Munford stripped Zephyrhills runner Mike Barber and Aaron Mohedano fell on the fumble. Six plays later, Tellis Roundtree scored on a 4-yard run.
Central then shut down Zephyrhills on its ensuing possession, forcing a punt, but the bouncing kick touched one of the Bears. Five plays later quarterback Donnie Pinkerton sneaked in from 1 yard. Tommy Hutchinson added the extra-point and the game was tied _ for the third time.
In overtime, Roundtree scored from 3 yards but Jay Griffiths' extra-point attempt was wide left. Pinkerton threw a 15-yard scoring pass to Josh Willis, and Hutchinson hit the game-winning extra point.
_ TIM BUCKLEY
Mazzola's recovery sparks Springstead
SPRING HILL _ Credit John Mazzola with recovering the turnover of the game in Springstead's 27-26 victory over Dunedin on Friday night.
It was Mazzola's recovery of a mid-air fumble by Dunedin's Robert Wiley that set up Springstead's winning touchdown in a see-saw affair, a 6-yard run by Andrae Brooks.
_ STEVE LEE