Hernando County‘s top four players snubbed in District 10 balloting, 12 others named all-stars

Apparently, rushing for over 2,000 yards and scoring 33 touchdowns was not enough to sway the FACA attending coaches to add Hernando High senior Israel “Izzy” Fields to the District 10 Senior All-Star team this week at Wiregrass High School. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

FACA FOOTBALL

Though Fields is not

chosen, Leopards return

home with five selections

By TONY CASTRO

HernandoSport.com

Ten of the 20 member schools from Pasco and Hernando counties met at Wiregrass Ranch High in Wesley Chapel this week to select its 2018 Florida Athletic Coaches Association (FACA) District 10 Football All-Star teams.

Florida Athletic Coaches Association

Sunlake, Land O’ Lakes, Fivay, Hudson, Wiregrass Ranch, Zephyrhills, Central, Hernando, Springstead and Weeki Wachee were represented in the recent two-hour meeting.

Two of the area’s better programs, Mitchell and Nature Coast Technical, weren’t present. As a result, none of their players were nominated.

Any of the senior players named are eligible to be chosen for the Saturday, Dec. 15’s 64th annual North/South All-Star Classic at The Villages.

Participating coaches voted on two all-star squads beginning with the All-District Senior Team.

The assembled mentors also voted on the Player of the Year and Coach of the Year.

Besides a Senior District 10 squad, the selection of the All-District 10 Team, including underclassmen, took place.

Each all-star squad was 26 allotted positions (including 13 players on offense, 13 on defense) as only the top vote getters were honored.

Sessums rules

District 10’s Player of the Year was Wiregrass Ranch quarterback Grant Sessums. The Bulls are currently 6-2 overall.

Grant Sessums

Through eight games, the 6-foot-1, 165 pounder completed 57-of-118 passes (48 percent) for 1,025 yards and eight touchdowns against five interceptions.

Via the rush, Sessums posted a quiet 121 yards – including 65 yards on one run – on 41 carries and scored once.

This is the same player who rushed (?) for a minus-90 yards last fall, threw under 50 percent, hurled nine interceptions, and mustered a 73 percent quarterback rating for the Bulls.

Hello, what about Springstead senior Nathan Sims?

Last season, Sims missed 2½ games due to injuries and still managed to rush for 970 yards and tally nine touchdowns.

Nathan Sims

Sims also threw – and everyone knows SHS is not a throwing football team – for 213 yards and two TDs against three picks.

He’s also a dangerous return man as symbolized by being named Hernando County’s Special Teams Player of the Year in 2016.

Though 7½ games this fall (Sims missed the almost the entire second half against HHS due to concussion protocol), the two-time All-County performer in football and track and field, had amassed a career-best 934 yards, five 100-yard efforts and nine touchdowns.

Sims’ QB rating isn’t much – 53 percent – but he’s not playing in a pass-oriented offense.

Moreover, he was starting signal caller in the Eagles’ 12-7 comeback at Sunlake and the 23-10 win over red-hot Land O’ Lakes on Oct. 12.

Invite Sessums to race Sims in the 40-yard dash or anything else and the difference is clear cut.

Memo to the FACA coaches: Sims deserved a much better fate than this snub.

In another case of mystery balloting, let’s turn to running back.

Land O’ Lakes’ Kevin Leivas and Hudson-Fivay’s Jayvon Wilson were voted in.

Jayvon Wilson

In seven games, the 6-foot, 185-pound Wilson rushed for 1,208 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Since transferring to Fivay from Ridgewood, he opened the season with a 34-carry, 377-yard effort against second-year Cypress Creek.

His season included a 120-yard effort against an 8-0 Zephyrhills crew.

Kyle Leivas (21)

The 5-foot-8, 170-pound Leivas carried 126 times for 862 yards featuring four 100-yard efforts and six touchdowns.

In the loss against Hernando, Leivas was held to 65 yards on 16 totes. He scored late in the fourth quarter on a kickoff return against the Leopard backups.

At “The Swamp” against district rival Springstead, Leivas carried 13 times for 71 yards and scored once.

Most importantly, left out of the mix was Hernando High senior fullback Israel “Izzy” Fields.

Remember, HHS opened its home schedule carving up Land O’ Lakes like Thanksgiving Day turkey, 48-14.

The stocky-built Fields at 5-foot-9, 200 pounds, played exactly one half against the Gators.

He departed with 21 carries for 250 rushing yards and five touchdowns.

You’d think that feat alone would’ve left and indelible imprint on first-year Head Coach Chad Walker’s mind.

Then how could anyone from Fivay not vote for Fields?

Israel Fields

Fields, who rushed twice for 117 yards and a score in last year’s 62-0 whitewash over the Falcons, carried 19 times for 99 yards and a score in this year’s 40-7 triumph at Fivay.

Heck, Wilson didn’t even play against HHS.

Moreover, Fields entered last Friday’s game at the Bears’ Den with 148 carries for 1,183 yards and 16 touchdowns.

That’s not counting his 106 carries for 878 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns last season as an All-Hernando County selection.

If you’re keeping score, that’s 2,061 yards and 33 rushing touchdowns since transferring from Bushnell-South Sumter.

Not having Hernando County’s leading rusher in the mix, NCT’s 6-foot-2, 220-pound senior Michael “Mike-Mike” Weston on the squad, can be understood.

When a coach does not take the time to vote – NCT regularly does not participate in FACA meetings – their kids will suffer. It’s that simple.

But not including Fields on this team is a disgrace. Shame on the area coaches for missing the boat on the voting.

Leopards: 5 selections

Under first-year skipper Robert Kazmier, HHS entered the FACA meeting at 5-2.

The Leopards departed with a county-high five selections.

On the senior all-star squad included right guard Jacob Hackney, linebacker Bronson Tafelski and David Hale Bronson at utility were tapped.

On the All-District 10 Team, that features undergraduates, juniors Isaiah Brown at tight end and defensive lineman Jaquan Spry were feted.

Jacob Hackney

The under-sized Hackney at 5-foot-10, 205 pounds, is the lone returning O-line starter from Bill Vonada’s district championship team from 2017.

Despite the fresh faces up front, the Leopards’ O-line has helped generate 403 yards of total offense per game. Locally, only NCT has averaged more at 443 yards per game.

“Hackney is one of our captains,” explained Coach Kaz. “He’s a lunch pail guy. He plays under-sized for the position ,but he won’t shy away from anyone.

“He’s our lone returnee up front and is a three-year starter. The kid’s got a motor. He can pull and he can pass block. He has a tremendous passion for the game.”

Bronson Tafelski

Tafelski, who is home-schooled along with his brother, Boston, was an All-County selection last fall.

In 2017, the 5-foot-8, 165-pounder was the team’s fifth-leading tackler with 68 total hits. He was second on the team in tackles for a loss (12.0) tied Springstead’s Isaiah Delgado for the county lead in interceptions (5).

After seven games this year, the multi-sport Tafelski who also wrestles under David Pritz and lifts competitively under Mark Griffith, he’s second on the team in tackles (65).

Tafelski ranks first on the team in sacks (6.0), second in quarterback pressures (8), has caused two fumbles, recovered one and added an interception.

“He can single-handedly hold down one side of the field,” praised Coach Kaz. “He had five interceptions last year and no one is passing his way this year. Forget his size, he’s just a football player.

“Bronson could be a starter on offense, but we need his services the most on defense. He’s the total package when you consider his grades and his faith in God. He’s just a very humble and hard-working kid. This is well-deserved.”

David Hale Bronson

On David Hale Bronson, he’s a two-time All-County football selection, is a defending county champion weightlifter and 2017 All-County lifter.

Last year’s Hernando County Special Teams Player of the Year is a very dangerous return man.

Due to injuries, he’s filled in nicely at linebacker with 22 tackles, ranking 11th on the team.

Offensively, he ranks second in rushing with 67 carries for 565 yards and three scores. He’s the team’s No. 2 receiver with nine receptions for 129 yards and two more scores.

“He’s the kind of player you always want on the field,” shared Coach Kazmier. “He’s totaled nearly 3,000 all-purpose yards in his prep career and has scored 24 touchdowns.

“… The kid is special and he’s a gifted football player. When he’s blocking, he’s like a dog with a bone – he won’t let it go. To me, he’s right up talent-wise with (former NCT standout Matt) Breida. He’s a phenomenally blessed and hard-working kid. He’s the last of the Bronson kids; that’s like the end of an era. He’ll do great things where ever he lands in life.”

Isaiah Brown

Brown was All-County football and basketball selection last year at Central High before transferring to Hernando High.

On an HHS team that runs the ball 81 percent of the time, he’s not the focal point of the offense like he was with the Bears.

So far, he’s latched on 19 passes for 280 yards and three touchdowns. His 19 receptions rank second overall in a non-passing circuit.

“Isaiah has the best pair of hands I’ve ever seen,” pointed out Kazmier, who graduated from NCT 2005. “He was the show at Central. If we wanted, we could throw his way on every snap. There’s no need to throw as much here because we’ve got some other weapons.

“Since he arrived, he’s had to change his game to the new culture. His body has grown and he’s put on some weight (standing 6-foot-2, 210 pounds). He’s literally grown into the tight end position.”

Remember when Ja’Vaughn Dorsey became a one-hit wonder at defensive end last year under Vonada?

After Dorsey graduated, Spry has literally taken his place.

Where did Spry come from? He didn’t collect a tackle in 2017.

Jaquan Spry

After seven games in 2018, Spry leads the Purple and Gold in tackles (71) and was tied for the lead in fumble recoveries with Tevan Berry with two.

Remember when Ja’Vaughn Dorsey became a one-hit wonder at defensive end last year under Vonada?

After Dorsey graduated, Spry has literally taken his place.

Where did Spry come from? He didn’t collect a tackle in 2017.

After seven games in 2018, Spry leads the Purple and Gold in tackles (71) and was tied for the lead in fumble recoveries with Tevan Berry with two.

At 6-foot, 215 pounds, the heart of Spry’s game is his explosiveness off the snap.

“Spry has been unreal this year,” detailed Coach Kazmier. “Teams are afraid of him. He’s a tough match-up problem due to his speed and quickness.

“As far as a motor, it’s special. He’s a key cog to our defense. He’s pivotal in what we do on that side of the ball.“

Robert Kazmier

On some of other Leopards that didn’t make it, “It’s a shame some our players got overlooked,“ stressed Kazmier. “But Israel Fields is the real deal. He’s the guy that wears down defenses.

“… We built an O-line around his abilities. I’d say to anybody, if you question his ability the production has been there; check out film. His numbers and film don’t lie.”

Four Eagles picked

The 4-3 Springstead Eagles were represented by a trio of two seniors: 5-foot-8, 185-pound defensive lineman Max Gabbard and 6-foot-1, 165-pound corner back Jerome Langley and two juniors on the All-District team featuring 5-foot-11, 195-pound Adrian Cabrera at linebacker and 6-foot-1, 306-pound offensive guard Colby McMillan.

Max Gabbard

As a linebacker last season, Gabbard finished fourth on the team in tackles (51). He totaled four tackles for a loss, one sack and returned a fumble for a touchdown.

This season, Gabbard ranks third on the team with 47 tackles, highlighted by 11 hits behind the line of scrimmage, four sacks, and 13 QB pressures.

“Max has had a great season,” emphasized sixth-year Head Coach Mike Garofano. “Though he’s under-sized, he switched from linebacker to defensive lineman smoothly. He’s quick and extremely physical. Plays a lot bigger than his size. When he crosses the line of scrimmage, he’s bringing heat.”

Last season, the athletic Langley accumulated one tackle.

Jerome Langley

After SHS graduated three starters from the secondary, he’s grown by leaps and bounds.

After seven games, Langley ranks seventh in tackles with 39. He also has an interception and is a fine student/athlete.

“Langley is a coaches’ dream,” shared Garofano. “The kid has never missed a workout, never says boo and plays on both sides of the ball.

“As a receiver, he’s a terrific downfield blocker. He’ll block his butt off. To me, he’s a selfless player. He carries a 3.4 grade point average, too. I can’t say enough about him. His grades alone may allow him play at the next level.”

Colby McMillan

For a ground ’n pound Eagles team that rushes the football 93 percent of the time, McMillan, has been at the epicenter.

“As our right guard, he’s been our most consistent O-lineman,” shared Garofano. “He’s got good feet for a 300-pounder. What I like is he’s gotten nastier since last year. He knows to get to the next level he’s gonna have put in some time in weight room to increase his bench total.”

Cabrera is the county’s lone repeat choice as an underclassman to this all-star team.

The three-year starter tied a Hernando County record of three straight 100-plus tackle seasons.

He entered Friday’s game with a broken thumb and a county-leading 147 tackles.

With seven more tackles against Cypress Creek, he would have broken the Hernando County record of most tackles in a career held by ex-Eagle Conor Ross in 2012-15 (425).

The county’s defending Defensive Player of the Year went into Week 9 leading the county in solos (67), assists (80), and tackles for a loss (30.0) besides forcing three fumbles, recovering one and intercepting two passes.

If that wasn’t all, Cabrera, who was a two-way standout at Explorer K-8, has rushed 90 times -as a backup – for 507 yards and six touchdowns.

He’s accumulated three 100-plus rushing efforts as a part-time ball carrier.

Now, ask yourself does Weston or anybody else locally play both ways with that kind of production? The answer is easy, hell no.

Adrian Cabrera

“Adrian is our spiritual leader. He’s vocal and is the heart and soul of the defense,” stressed Coach Garofano. “Broken thumb or not, he’ll play against Cypress Creek; that’s the kind of player he is.

“He wants to play. His worse injury was a strained abdominal muscle against Sunlake. He still had over 20 tackles, rushed for over 100 yards, including the game-winner,” noted Garofano. “The way he plays, he’ll never be 100 percent. He’s a physical specimen. When he was out getting his cast on, we didn’t have the juice he brings to practice. He’s that important to this program.”

Hornets: 2 picks

Brian Strickland

Representing Weeki Wachee were seniors 6-foot-2, 185-pound tight end Brian Strickland and 5-foot-9, 165-pound free safety Amar Walker.

Strickland, who caught one pass for 13 yards in the laugher over Gulf, switched from defense to offense in 2018.

After seven games, Strickland ranked second in the county in receptions with Hernando’s Isaiah Brown with 19.

He amassed 242 receiving yards and scored three times.

Amar Walker

On special teams, he set two Hernando County records with 13 two-point attempts and nine conversions.

Walker totaled 14 tackles in 2017.

A year later, he ranks second in the county with 81 tackles, including 5.0 for a loss.

Foster represents Bears

Foster Hawthorne

2017 All-County linebacking selection Foster Hawthorne represents the Bears.

Hawthorne served as the Bears‘ leading tackler in 2017 with 68 hits. He also led the team in tackles behind the line (14.0) and sacks (5.0).

This season, the 6-foot-2, 230-pounder ranks second on the team in tackles along the D-line with 58 hits, including 14.0 tackles for a loss.

John Warren

“We are tremendously proud of Foster and all of his accomplishments during his Central career,” explained CHS‘ first-year mentor John Warren. “He has done everything we have asked him to do on the field,  from trying out new positions to playing both sides to the ball.

“… Foster has been a varsity contributor his entire high school career. He is a throw back type of player who loves to come down hill and get his hands on you. He has great natural strength and balance which makes it
nearly impossible to block him. We are equally excited to see him continue to grow while playing college football. Being a FACA all-star is just the beginning for Foster Hawthorne.”

2018 FACA District 10 Senior All-Star Team

Offensive Selections

POS. NAME SCHOOL HT. WGT.
QB Grant Sessums Wiregrass Ranch 6’1” 165
RB Kyle Leivas Land O’ Lakes 5’8” 170
RB Jayvon Wilson Fivay 6’0” 185
WR Dominic Rutigliano Hudson 5’9” 175
WR Ja’quan Sheppard Zephyrhills 6’1” 190
TE Brian Strickland Weeki Wachee 6’1” 200
CT Tyler Verscharen Sunlake 6’2” 210
OL Josh Daniel Fivay 6’3” 240
OL Jacob Hackney Hernando 5’10” 205
OL Taivon Jackson Sunlake 6’3” 255
OL Ethan Vest Zephyrhills 6’3” 280
PK Colin Correa Land O’ Lakes 5’11” 170
UTIL Cartrell Strong Zephyrhills 5’10” 165

Defensive Selections

POS. NAME SCHOOL HT. WGT.
DL Max Gabbard Springstead 5’8” 185
DL Foster Hawthorne Central 6’2” 230
DL Kasean Ridgel Wiregrass Ranch 5’10” 270
DL Samuel Bergeron Zephyrhills 5’8” 190
LB Bronson Tafelski Hernando 5’9” 165
LB Myron Bloom Land O’ Lakes 5’10” 212
LB Grant Henderson Sunlake 5’10” 210
CB Jerome Langley Springstead 6’0” 155
CB Ja’quan Sheppard Zephyrhills 6’1” 190
SS Dorian Green Wiregrass Ranch 5’11” 190s
FS Amar Walker Weeki Wachee 5’11” 185
PT Clark Cooley Sunlake 6’2” 205
UTIL David Hale Bronson Hernando 5’8” 165
LS Jimmy Sandifer Land O’ Lakes 6’0” 185

District 10 MVP – QB Grant Sessums, Wiregrass Ranch

District 10 MVP Runner-up – Cartrell Strong, Zephrhills

District 10 MVP 3rd Place – Dominic Rutigliano, Hudson

District 10 MVP 4th Place – Kyle Leivas, Land O’ Lakes

Class 5A COY – Nick Carroll, Zephyrhills

Class 6A COY – Mike Garofano, Springstead

Class 7A COY – Mark Kantor, Wiregrass

All-Star Game Coach Nominee: Nick Carroll, Zephyrhills

2018 FACA District 10 All-Star Team

(seniors and underclassmen)

Offensive Selections

POS. NAME SCHOOL HT. WGT.
QB Grant Sessums Wiregrass Ranch 6’1” 165
RB Kyle Leivas Land O’ Lakes 5’8” 170
RB Jayvon Wilson Fivay 6’0” 185
WR Dominic Rutigliano Hudson 5’9” 175
WR Ja’quan Sheppard Zephyrhills 6’1” 190
TE Isaiah Bronw Hernando 6’2” 210
CT Tyler Verscharen Sunlake 6’2” 210
OL Josh Daniel Fivay 6’3” 240
OL Colby McMillan Springstead 6’1” 286
OL Connor Lenczden Wiregrass Ranch 6’5” 285
OL Ethan Vest Zephyrhills 6’3” 280
PK Colin Correa Land O’ Lakes 5’11” 170
UTIL Cartrell Strong Zephyrhills 5’10” 165

Defensive Selections

POS. NAME SCHOOL HT. WGT.
DL Max Gabbard Springstead 5’8” 185
DL Foster Hawthorne Central 6’2” 230
DL Jaquan Spry Hernando 6’0” 215
DL Samuel Bergeron Zephyrhills 5’8” 190
LB Adrian Cabrera Springstead 5’11” 195
LB Dylan Ridolph Wiregrass Ranch 6’1’” 210
LB Grant Henderson Sunlake 5’10” 210
CB Jerome Langley Springstead 6’0” 155
CB Ja’quan Sheppard Zephyrhills 6’1” 190
SS Dorian Green Wiregrass Ranch 5’11” 190s
FS Amar Walker Weeki Wachee 5’11” 185
PT Clark Cooley Sunlake 6’2” 205
UTIL David Hale Bronson Hernando 5’8” 165
LS Jimmy Sandifer Land O’ Lakes 6’0” 185

This article has 1 Comment

  1. I couldn’t agree more there was a snub at quarterback this year in the FACA voting, but it wasn’t the running back from Springstead it was the quarterback from Weeki Wachee; the one that has thrown for over fourteen hundred yards and 17 TDs. The one who has a 95.8 QBR. Yeah that one, the true quarterback. got robbed.

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