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Good news, Hernando fans! I picked you to lose

I didn't exactly go out on a limb, but I picked Gainesville to knock off Hernando in tonight's Class 6A region quarterfinal.

You're welcome, Leopards fans.

I don't pretend to be an expert at picking games. If I had a good crystal ball, I'd spend my days working at a poker table in Vegas, not covering football.

But I've been awful with Hernando's most important games. Terrible. Horrible.

Since I started at the Times in July 2011, the Leopards have played about six big-time games. I'm 1-5.

Let's start with last year:

Land O'Lakes (2011)

My prediction: I've waffled all week on the two banged-up teams, but I'll give Jackson Cannon and the Gators' D a slight edge in a physical contest. Land O'Lakes, 17-14

What happened: Hernando, 28-7

Sunlake (2011)

My prediction: Expect a close, bruising defensive battle. I'll take my chances on Seahawks QB Cameron Stoltz in the clutch. Sunlake, 21-20

What happened: Hernando, 22-7. I ate crow on the blog after this one.

Gainesville (2011)

My prediction: Hernando has improved as the year has gone on, but injuries take their toll. Gainesville, 21-20

What happened: Gainesville, 20-14

It didn't get much better this fall:

Sunlake (2012)

My prediction: Hernando has the most talent in the district but hadn't put it together until last week. But Sunlake's defense has improved, and the Seahawks have a speedy ground game that can give the Leopards trouble. The Seahawks get revenge by eking out a close win. Sunlake, 17-14

What happened: Hernando, 14-10

I thought I figured it out after that. Hernando is clearly better than I thought. I've underestimated the Leopards all along. Let's fix that.

Springstead (2012)

My prediction: Springstead's discipline and hard-working approach have served the Eagles well so far, and it will keep the game close. But Hernando has more speed and athleticism. The Leopards get a big play late from (Tyrail) Hawkins to take a close win. Hernando, 17-14

What happened: Springstead, 28-7

OK, so maybe Hernando isn't as good as I believed. Let's try again.

Nature Coast (2012)

My prediction: NCT's offense is gaining balance alongside star RB Matt Breida. A big pass play late will be the difference and help the Sharks earn an upset victory. NCT, 28-27

What happened: Hernando, 14-7

Which brings us to tonight's game. I picked a Gainesville win (31-13), which is probably good news for the Leopards. Except that one correct game I've picked? That was against Gainesville in last year's playoffs.

Posted by matt_baker at 3:17:36 pm on November 16, 2012