Hernando High's defense roughed up both Citrus quarterbacks in a 35-12 victory, knocking starter Troy Waller out with several hard hits that left him shaken up and causing Brian Turner to seek postgame stitches.
The Leopards held the Hurricanes to 79 rushing yards, and a rush led by Casey Merritt, Ryan Blust, Matt Sullens and Rodney Williams forced Turner to miss eight of his last nine pass attempts.
Leading 7-6 inside the final four minutes of its victory over Crystal River, Central punted from its own 38-yard line. But a 57-yard line-drive kick by Don Lupichuk that sailed over return man Ryan Harris' head forced the Pirates to start their last drive from their own 5-yard line.
All but one Hernando offensive play in the opening half was a run, including all 10 on a game-opening drive capped when Matt Deason ran 4 yards behind the left-side blocking of Reppard Gordon and Bill Blair.
The Stat Book
Hernando tailback Eric Riggins had more than 200 yards of 268 total on his first seven of 16 carries, but was held to 34 on his last seven to end any thought of breaking current Florida State reserve running back Jermaine Green's one-game Hernando school-record of 315.
Central's ground game tallied 207 yards in the first half, but the Bears reached the end zone only once because back-to-back drives stalled on holding penalties in Crystal River territory. Tellis Roundtree was Central's top rusher with 100 yards, including 91 at halftime.
The Quote Book
For those wondering, Hernando coach Mike Imhoff said that even though quarterback Shad Reese carried the ball for 54 yards before a late-play option pitch to Riggins, all 57 yards gained on the first-half run should be credited to the tailback. "It's a shame for Shad," Imhoff said, "because he ran the heck out of it." Joked Reese: "I should at least get half of it. Or just give it all to me, but don't tell Eric."
Imhoff, on easy victories the past four weeks affecting the Leopards in their upcoming game with district co-leader Pasco: "It's got to help you, just because of the pure and simple fact the kids feel so good about themselves."
Central coach Barry Gardner, whose team would be 3-0 in 3A-District 6, but plays in 4A-7 with playoff-bound Pasco and Hernando: "I wish we were in this district. If we were, we'd be headed to state."
Citrus coach Ken Berry, asked if the loss of leading rusher Dwight Neil (broken finger) was costly against Hernando: "Him and the six or seven others they messed up. I mean, I'm down to one tight end, I'm down to half a quarterback. I mean, we got mangled."
Berry, on the Leopards manhandling his Hurricanes: "We knew the size was going to be a problem. I mean, what's (Hernando defensive lineman) Fred Bennett? 280? And we've got little, 145-pound (offensive lineman) Kenny McKettrick? How are you supposed to block that? You tell me."
_ TIM BUCKLEY and JOANNE KORTH