Hornets seek first-ever win over visiting Eagles


WWHS’ Chris Cook

makes home debut



According to the Hornets’ first-year skipper, Chris Cook, last week carried a positive vibe for the Hornets.

After going through another rehiring process – when Jacob Gray – opted to take a job out of state – the Hornets landed former Sebring native Chris Cook to retool its gridiron program.

In Cook’s debut – at Groveland-South Lake, the Hornets surrendered a first-quarter touchdown and not much else in losing last Friday, 7-0.

The US-19 crew had chances to dent the scoreboard in Lake County especially late in the fourth quarter with a drive to the Eagle 5-yard line.

But that effort came up a bit short.

Afterward, Cook lauded the effort.

Chris Cook

“The guys did everything we asked them to,“ said Cook. “A couple guys missed the game due to missing practice this last week, which affected our play calling. The guys played hard and gave it their all. We came up just a little short.”

This week, the task appears eve more daunting for the Hornets against the 1-0 F.W. Springstead Eagles.

The Eagles pounded rudderless Sunlake last week in Booster Stadium, 53-0.

SHS enters the seventh meeting between both schools at 6-0 lifetime.

The Spring Hill crew has out-scored their US-19 neighbors, 191-63 – including via 17-0 verdict last fall.

While the Eagles bulldozed the smaller Sunlake defense, WWHS chalked up 247 yards of total offense against South Lake.

John Mangarillo

WWHS has two plows up front led by John Mangarillo and Jonathon Higgins along its offensive line.

Mangarillo, a two-way threat, is listed at 6-foot-2, 300 pounds while Higgins is listed at 6-foot-3, 275 pounds.

Jonathon Higgins

Mangarillo is one of the Hornets’ two returning All-Hernando County performers from a year ago.

The other is wide receiver David Richards.

Richards, known locally as one of the premier hurdlers in track and field, was named All-County in football and track.

The Hornets feature a 26-man varsity roster including 6-foot-2 sophomore Keynan Hill.

The second-youngest of two sons of legendary SHS stud athlete Corey Hill.

Senior Deacon Straube, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound wrestler and 5-foot-11, 215-pound Roderick Harris is another potential weapon on defense.

Problem is the Hornets are not deep and many of their best players are going two ways and almost never leaving the field.

Which means -just like last season – fatigue will eventually take hold.

Last year’s record-setting quarterback, Vaughn Sykora, is now backup to a three-year starter at NCT.

Weeki Wachee QB, 12, Vaughn Sykora tries to pass out of the end zone. (next play was the safety).Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

More importantly key offensive cogs like Sebastian Class and Brian Strickland – both graduated.

David Ricahrds

The slender 5-foot-10, 155-pound Richards is the primary receiver for the Hornets and can split a defensive secondary. He grabbed two passes for 23 yards at South Lake.

Most of other options are untested like 5-foot-8, 168-pound Ronnie Mariani.

The first-year Mariani rushed for 50 yards and snared passes for 31 additional yards through the air against South Lake.

WWHS’ quarterback is also untested in 6-foot-2, 175-pound junior signal caller Kobe Bigger.

Bigger clicked on 4-of-9 passes last week for 54 yards, but he’ll have to release it quicker against an expected pass rush led by All-County returning senior linebackers Adrian Cabrera and Mackenxo Maysonet.

Adrian Cabrera

Cabrera, the county’s two-time defending Defensive Player of the Year, played in the just the first half of last week’s 43-0 halftime lead.

Cabrera was bystander in the entire second half after registering a team-best 10 tackles against the Seahawks.

The 6-foot-2 Maysonet notched seven tackles, including two for losses against the worst Sunlake team in 12 years.

Mike Garofano. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

Springstead’s seventh-year mentor, Mike Garofano expects some new wrinkles from WWHS.

“Weeki Wachee definitely moved the ball against South Lake. When they got into the red zone they had some negative plays that hurt them.

“… The Richards kid plays all over the place. He lines up everywhere for them, Mariani will touch the ball too.

“Their quarterback (Kobe Bigger) can throw it. They’ve got some size upfront. We’ll see.”

Garofano, who is 5-0 lifetime against WWHS, says his team grew up since getting handled in the spring classic by Dnnnellon in Marion County.

“I wanted us to play physical and tackle some people. We needed to get some people to the ball carrier against Sunlake and we did that, but what we did last week won’t help us in preparing for Weeki Wachee this week.

Garofano explained that Coach Cook will utilize some single wing concepts against SHS.

“Our first-team defense didn’t give up a first down last week,“ explained Garofano. “But things will be different this week. “We don’t see much single wing around here. We’re not used to seeing it. With it, you’ve got to find the football.”

Garofano lauded the play Colby McMillan to open the game against Sunlake and stressed that Cabrera set the tone against the Seahawks.

“Last week wasn’t a game filled with individual achievements but we saw a lot of guys hustling to the ball and that’s what it takes to play defense.

“…Some of our other players, like Angel Peralta and Logan Blevens looked really good. As coaches, we’re very critical. As a point of emphasis, he we need to force more turnovers. They didn’t happen last week, hopefully, we force a few this time..”

On what pleased Garofano the most.

“Our offensive line showed up,“ he said. “Those guys dominated. They set the tone from the start. We didn’t want to give Sunlake anything to be happy about.”

On the injury front, first-year sophomore cornerback Robert Burgos jammed his shoulder against Sunlake.

Anthony Alexis cruises for a touchdown against Hudson. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

Look for sophomore Zeek Lewis-Baldwin or Anthony Alexis to start in place of Burgos at corner,

Springstead vs. Weeki Wachee Hornets

Eagles lead the series 6-0

Compiled by TONY CASTRO






W 14-0



W 27-0



W 47-28



W 58-15



W 51=20



W 17-0








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