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Hernando is looking to bounce back from loss

Immediate redemption is available for Hernando, one week after a game it couldn't forget fast enough.

And the beauty of it all is the Leopards would be undefeated with a win tonight over Citrus. Well, not officially, but that would be the case in Class 3A, District 8, the only race that matters for postseason berths.

You better believe that was the gospel this week in the locker room in the wake of a 62-6 shellacking at Pasco, the largest margin of defeat for Hernando since a 55-6 loss to Crystal River in 1998.

"That's what I've been preaching to our kids all week," Hernando coach Matt Smith said. "In order to get to the playoffs, you have to win the district games. Right now we're 0-0."

In reality, the Leopards are 1-3 and struggling on both sides of the ball. With 159 points allowed in four games the defensive problems speak for themselves, but on offense Hernando needs to get more reward for solid running back work put in by Chad Sanders and Fabian Jackson.

"A lot has to do with the guys up front," Smith said. "We have to do a much better job of sustaining our blocks up front."

Not helping that goal is the loss of senior tackle James Johnson, who tore a patella tendon last week and won't play another varsity game. Another starter, defensive back Ben Rampt, is out for the season with a broken foot.

It's not the kind of roster one would want to take into a game against a team that has had two weeks of rest. Citrus' game last week against Port Orange Spruce Creek was canceled with the Volusia County team opted not to travel due to Hurricane Jeanne, so the Hurricanes have not played since Sept. 17 against Crystal River.

Hernando is one of the few teams anywhere in the state who has played four games pretty much as scheduled, though Smith notes the team has had just one normal week of practice with storm cancellations and the like.

This was another one of those weeks, with school out Monday. But now the "preseason" is over for Hernando.

The district season, and the chance for a change of fortune, begins tonight.