BROOKSVILLE — As should probably be expected in the first game of the season, there were a lot of mistakes and negative plays for both East Lake and Nature Coast. But there were also a few big plays, which proved to be key for the Sharks.
Trailing by a point at halftime, Nature Coast scored on a third-quarter interception return, an 88-yard kickoff return and a fourth-quarter 65-yard touchdown run to outlast the Eagles 32-25 on Friday night.
“That’s kind of the way we’re going to be right now,’’ Nature coast coach Cory Johns. “We’ve got guys going both ways and we’re going to have to figure some things out. But we did make some big plays."
Both teams scored twice in the first half, and all four touchdowns came on pass plays. East Lake scored first on its second possession. After a three-and-out to start, the Eagles put together an eight-play, 63-yard drive that ended when Matt Trotto hit Hunter Swetokos on a 29-yard touchdown pass.
Nature Coast did even better on its second possession. With the running game stalled, Fabian Burnett threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to Dedric Hall on third down to tie the score at 7.
It stayed that way until midway through the second quarter, when Burnett struck again. This time he hit Cai Teague on a 23-yard pass on fourth-and-8 that made the score 13-7. A two-point run attempt failed.
The Sharks had a chance to take a two-touchdown lead at halftime, but things fell apart in the final minute. After a Teague interception, Nature Coast moved the ball to the East Lake 14-yard line. But a fumble gave the Eagles the ball with a minute to play.
Trotto then hit Swetokos in stride for a 60-yard completion. Two plays later, and with no time on the clock, Trotto carried it in from a yard out to make the halftime score 14-13.
Then came the second-half big plays for Nature Coast. On East Lake’s second play, Michyl Shaw stepped in front of a Trotto pass and returned it 35 yards to make the score 19-14.
“I read the play and stepped in front of it,’’ Shaw said. “I just saw green grass from there. I do think that got us pumped up a bit.’’
East Lake added a 33-yard field goal by Michael Sombanditis to cut the score to 19-17. Kinyatah Morgan made sure that didn’t last long when he returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown. Then came a 65-yard run by Lenkel Smith to top off the Sharks scoring.
East Lake scored a late touchdown with two seconds left and got the onside kick. But the hail Mary pass was unsuccessful.