Nature Coast has been one of Hernando County’s top football teams for the past decade. The main reason for its success is an ability to churn out dynamic athletes on offense.
Dating back to 2007, when Tevin Drake started cranking out 1,000 yard-plus rushing seasons, the Sharks have had a go-to player with a knack for finding the end zone.
There has been Isaac Bailey (2010), Matt Breida (2011-12), Deshawn Smith (2013-15), T.J. Owens (2016) and Mike Weston (2017-18). All gained well over 1,000 rushing yards each season they started. Breida now plays for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers and Smith had an absurd 60 touchdowns and 3,715 rushing yards as a senior at Nature Coast.
The next man up is junior Dedric Hall.
Unlike those who went before him, Hall is more of a hybrid. He has nearly 1,000 yards receiving and 500 yards rushing. If he’s not going out for a pass, he could be lined up at quarterback in a “Wild Shark” formation. Or he could be a running back.
However it happens, if the ball is in his hands, a big play likely follows.
“He’s a phenomenal athlete,” Nature Coast coach Cory Johns said. “He can run the ball, he can catch the ball, he has four or five interceptions. And he can throw the ball. He might be our quarterback next season. I haven’t decided on that yet.”
As long as he is on the field, Hall is fine with it. A junior varsity player as a freshman, he started making an impact on varsity last year as a sophomore. He was moved to receiver after playing quarterback on JV. He also ran the ball a few times behind Weston.
Defensively, he played cornerback. His role on offense has increased this season and he has remained on defense. He even plays some on special teams, which means he is rarely on the sideline.
“I don’t get tired,” Hall said. “Maybe if I run the ball five straight times, but that’s about it.”
Hall said he can remember being in middle school and watching Smith play for Nature Coast. The Sharks were playing River Ridge and Smith had a typical big game.
He envisioned playing for Nature Coast someday and running the football. He just wasn’t sure when that would be.
“This has been a better season than I thought it would be,” Hall said. “I thought maybe by my senior year I would be the main player. We have a lot of good athletes on our team.”
Hall has played well on defense also. He has a team leading six interceptions, which includes two against Citrus last week in the Class 5A region quarterfinal. But he sees himself as more of an offensive player.
The Sharks (6-5) will try to keep their season alive Friday night when they travel to Orlando Jones, which is 10-1 and ranked 14th in the state.
Clearly it will be a tough challenge for a team that has been a bit inconsistent by their standards. It’s going to take more than Hall for Nature Coast to advance.
“If we come out playing well then we have a chance but if we come out flat we won’t win,” Hall said. “We’ve lost to some teams we shouldn’t have this season just because we were flat. We can’t be flat.”
If Friday night turns out to be the last game of the season, Hall will quickly trade uniforms. He is a point guard on the basketball team and will join them Monday, which is the start of preseason games.
Hall played in 13 games as a sophomore on a team that went 24-7 and made it to the Class 6A state semifinal.
But football is where it’s at for Hall.
“I’ll play basketball but once we start offseason workouts for football I’ll do that too,” he said. “My focus is mainly on football. That’s what I want to play in college.”
Johns has no doubt that Hall can make it at the next level. And it’s not just because of his talent on the field.
“He’s a great kid off the field also,” Johns said.
Contact Rodney Page at email@example.com. Follow @RodneyHomeTeam
High school football region semifinals
All games 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Class 2A, Region 3
• No. 3 Seffner Christian at No. 2 Northside Christian
• No. 4 Admiral Farragut at No. 1 Cambridge Christian
Class 3A, Region 3
• No. 5 Clearwater Central Catholic at No. 1 Berkeley Prep
Class 4A, Region 3
• No. 4 Clewiston at No. 1 Lakewood
• No. 3 Tampa Catholic at No. 2 Delray Beach American Heritage
Class 5A, Region 3
• No. 8 Chamberlain at No. 4 Jesuit
Class 5A, Region 2
• No. 4 Nature Coast at No. 1 Orlando Jones
Class 6A, Region 2
• No. 5 Clearwater at No. 1 Gaither
• No. 3 Lake Minneola at No. 2 Largo
Class 7A, Region 3
• No. 3 Manatee at No. 2 Mitchell
Class 7A, Region 2
• No. 5 Bloomingdale at No. 1 Armwood
• No. 6 Tampa Bay Tech at No. 2 Lakeland
Class 8A, Region 2
• No. 4 Steinbrenner at No. 1 Sarasota Riverview