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The runner was clear, then came the mean hit from thesideline

Of all the great games of the heated Pasco-Hernando football rivalry, the 1987 edition, a 34-6 Hernando rout at home, will hardly go down as the most memorable.

But the intensity level in any Pasco-Hernando game should never be underestimated, and the 1987 year was no exception. Vernon Turner, who coached the Leopards then and is now at Central High, will never forget just how excited one Pasco player became.

With Hernando up 21-6 in the third quarter, Pasco quarterback Lex Smith lofted a screen pass to Mike Mitchell, who bobbled the ball and dropped it.

Hernando freshman defensive back Tony Roberts, who went on to play at Kansas State, scooped up the ball and headed down the sideline with two blockers ahead of him. Only Smith stood between Roberts and the Pasco end zone, but with Kevin Clare and John McRae out in front, Roberts appeared golden.

Not so fast.

Thirty yards from paydirt, Roberts was blindsided with a crunching hit by Pasco junior offensive lineman Roy Bryant _ who was not in the game at the time. He came off the sideline to drop Roberts.

Meanwhile, the referees said they did not see Bryant hit Roberts and ruled Smith's pass incomplete anyway.

Then-Pasco coach Don Herndon refused to comment on the incident: "I don't have anything to say about it."

"I've never seen anything like it in my coaching career," Turner said at the time. "I'm really surprised (Roberts) didn't get hurt. He didn't see him coming and it wasn't one of those drag-them-down-from-behind tackles. He laid a mean hit on him.

"When all is said and done, I guess it was pretty funny to a lot of people. But I sure wouldn't want to see it happen every game."

_ RICK GERSHMAN

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