Defense allowing 18.8 ppg,
but offense is averaging 5.0 ppg
By TONY CASTRO
Regardless of tonight’s final tally in the first-ever meeting between Weeki Wachee at Holiday-Anclote, the Hornets have its eyes on what’s ahead.
After six weeks, the US-19-based Hornets are languishing in last place in the county, Class 5A, District 8 and Gulf Coast 8 athletic football standings.
This is a direct result of entering Week 7 at 0-5.
The seven-year varsity program has already clinched is seventh consecutive losing season under first year mentor Chris Cook.
But Cook inherited a program ravaged by graduation and coaching defections.
When the Hornets kickoff tonight in Holiday against the Sharks (2-4), Gang Green has permitted an average of 18.8 points per game.
The school record for least points allowed is 275 achieved in 2018 under Jacob Gray, when the 4-6 Hornets allowed 27.5 a game.
Walking in, the gutsy Hornets are allowing the opposition almost nine points less than last fall.
The main issue – and there are many when you change coaches for the third time in three seasons – is with the underachievement offense.
The Hornets’ offense has tallied 20 points in five games, or a paltry four points per game.
Gang Green opened the season dropping a heart-breaker at Groveland-South Lake, 7-0.
In Week 2, Springstead applied a 21-0 shutout, though it was only a two-score game until the fourth quarter.
Next, the Hornets fell at Lecanto, 7-6.
After a bye week, Inverness-Citrus throttled the Hornets at the Hornets’ Nest, 46-14.
Last week, visiting Hernando applied its third whitewash behind a harder-than-expected 13-0 verdict.
The Leopards‘ first touchdown arrived via a special teams break through – a blocked punt – that rolled into the end zone where Fred Scrivens Jr. fell on it for a gift score.
The defense yielded a fourth-quarter TD drive capped by senior Kev’on Williams’ 27-yard scoring scamper.
Place-kicker Perry Grant converted the second of two point-after boots to secure the 13-0 fate.
The Hornets clinched its seventh consecutive losing season earlier in the game after fumbling away five possessions.
Junior running back Kenny Davis led the hosts with 60 rushing yards while Perry Nation added 21 caries on six totes.
The Hornets starting quarterback, Mike McMurray, finished 0-for-2.
The Hornets have been hard-pressed to get the ball to its expected playmakers.
Junior David Richards, an All-County receiver in 2018 and All-County hurdler, has been rendered in effective at running back.
To date, Richards has carried 23 times for 56 net yards.
Through the air, he hasn’t caught a pass since Week 1. He’s snared two passes for 23 quiet yards
Another first-year running backer, Ronnie Mariani, is the team’s catalyst with 202 rushing yards in 67 attempts with zero touchdowns.
Along the trenches, 6-foot-2, 300-pound senior John Mangarillo and 6-foot-3, 275-pound senior Jonathan Higgins are playing on offense and defense.
That’s been another issue, the lack of depth.
The Hornets’ defensive coordinator, Bill Vonada, a says the team has rallied behind Coach Cook’s steady hand.
“Our defensive guys have battled all season,“ explained the former Springstead and Hernando head coach. “Coach Cook took over a tough situation. It’s tough to get the right blend of coaches on your staff. I had to go through that process before, so I’m familiar with it. It takes time to build up a staff.”
Vonada added the players have to be willing to also mentally and physically want to pay the price of success.
“I’m not sure there’s a perfect number of football players, but everyone needs depth. You only get these kids for so long,” shared Vonada.
To date, the WWHS defensive playmakers have included 5-foot-5, 140-pound cornerback Omari Forde and 5-foot-11, 200-pound linebacker Trenton Pisarski.
Forde leads the team in scoring with two touchdowns while Pisarski has amassed a team-leading 71 tackles through five tilts.
“We’ve had our moments on defense,“ explained Vonada. “We’ve played well for a couple plays or a series along the D-line but everything comes down to execution. Consistent execution – that’s what we’re looking for every play.”
Another standout is 5-foot-9, 175-pound sophomore Joe Chavis.
Chavis, according to Vonada, did a terrific job of attacking Hernando’s counter game last week.
“Hernando will begin probing you until you adjust,“ shared Vonada. “And then they’ll hit you with their counter game. That’s where Chavis really stood out.”
Vonada explained that this season is all about getting guys vested into football at WWHS..
“We’re building a new regime. We’d love guys to join, but its not easy,” shared Vonada.
“Coach Cook loves that kids. But you’ve got to be strict too. I think the kids have begun to buy in. They’re listening to what the coaches’ have to say. We’ll look good for a play of two or a series or two and then our inexperience will show.
“All it takes is a bad starting position to miss a tackle or one false step,” noted Vonada.
Anclote, meanwhile, is attempting to snap a two-game losing skin.
The Sharks opened the season getting humbled by Mitchell (49-7) and Wesley Chapel-Cypress Creek (27-13) before besting Hudson (26-7) and Gulf (42-0).
The last two weeks, Fivay dropped the Sharks, 45-17 and fell to Wesley Chapel (31-0).
“Playing Anclote offers lots of challenges this week,” explained Vonada. “They’re gonna be throwing the kitchen sink at us. They’re gonna try to out-formation us and keep us out of alignment. We’ve got to stop their big plays.”
On whether the Hornets are still playing hard for Cook isn’t the question, added Vonada.
“The kids are playing hard every week due to Coach Cook. It’s because of his approach they’ve bought in. I can tell you no one has tossed in a towel on the season. We’re playing hard and getting ready for Anclote – that’s all we can do. Play one game at a time. It’s a testament to Coach Cook and his staff that these guys are playing as hard as they are.”