Navigators limp into county championship vs. Powell sans its best all-around player: Samuels

Challenger eighth-grader Chris Samuels (27) suffered a knee injury last week against Explorer K-8 and as a result will not be suiting up for Tuesday’s Hernando County Middle School Athletic Conference championship tilt at 6;30 p.m. at Shark Tank Stadium. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO
Powell;s talented seventh-grader receiver Jayden Skipper (2) could be the difference in Tuesday’s title game for the unbeaten Panthers. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

MIDDLE SCHOOL FOOTBALL

Challenger’s No. 2

running back, Lovell,

limited to defense

By TONY CASTRO

HernandoSport.com

The curtains come down in one of the most competitive middle school football seasons in memory at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Shark Tank Stadium.

The 2018 Hernando County Middle School Athletic Conference title will be decided between top-seeded and undefeated Powell Panthers (7-0) against the No. 2 seed Challenger Navigators (6-1).

Brett Teitelman Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

Ironically, over the last 18 seasons both programs are seeking its second-ever title.

Challenger, under Brett Teitelman, won its last crown in 2016.

Mike Garofano

For Powell, its title drought extends to 2001 when Mike Garofano’s troops celebrated being county champions.

In a generation of football, Powell is seeking its initial perfect campaign.

Challenger: hurting

Since Challenger solved No. 3 seeded Explorer K-8 Bobcats in opening round of the playoffs last Tuesday at Springstead, 21-14, health has been an issue.

Staring quarterback Brady Nowlan missed the subsequent practice due to flu bug.

Moreover, the ’Gators top two running backs are dinged up.

Its best back and two-way starter Chris Samuels, was whisked to an area hospital in the first quarter at Booster Stadium.

Samuels, the heart and soul of the team at free safety and rushing the football, will not suiting up explained second-year Challenger mentor David Barrett.

Vinny Lovell, the team’s No. 2 running back, suffered a hamstring injury during the third quarter and he too did not finish the game.

David Barrett

According to Barrett, Lovell, will be limited to reps, mostly on defense.

In a contact sport, Barrett isn’t offering excuses, “It’s the next man up. Manny (Acker) will start in the backfield. We’ll rotate some others in there.

“… On defense, Matthew Rizzuto and Noah Moss – who both started against Fox Chapel – will alternate at linebacker. Kendall Esser will start at cornerback – most likely facing Powell’s best receiver, No. 2 (Jayden Skipper).”

Challenger isn’t happy it’s perfect season went up in smoke on Oct. 11 in overtime against Powell, 13-7.

“Our guys were looking at an undefeated season and county championship, but Powell took that away from us,” detailed Barrett. “Maybe we needed that to happen to get back here.

“I still think the game will be close. Once we start playing, we know we’ve gotta start making things happen. I wish we’d play the game today,” shared Barrett.

Powell’s Heredia: out

Powell has its own issues.

Due to repeated violation of team rules, Powell’s first-year skipper John Capel booted off one of his starting tackles, seventh grader Jordano Heredia prior to Tuesday’s title tilt.

John Capel

“Player actions require consequences,” stressed Capel. “If Jordano or anyone else can’t toe the line discipline-wise, they can play somewhere else. That kind of behavior will not be tolerated. He was given plenty of chances to straighten out.”

With Heredia out, Capel indicated that Aiden Orta and Barry Nelson will split time at offensive tackle.

The remainder of the team, according to Capel, is ready for Tuesday night.

“My guys are ready,” stressed Capel. “Overtime was unfortunate the last time we played Challenger. Our guys wanted that game, but we didn‘t handle the ball well and didn‘t control the clock like we should‘ve.

“In that game, we wanted to prove we could play with them. I‘m telling you, if we hit the way we did against Parrott – when the Leopards coughed the ball up on nine fumbles – I think we win again.”

Facing Challenger’s multiple weapons, “They’re a good team; extremely well-coached,” shared Capel. “But our team has played well beyond its expectations all season. If you beat Parrott or Challenger once, maybe that’s a fluke. Beating both of those teams twice in one season isn’t a fluke. That’s what we’re aiming for.”

All-Time Hernando County Middle School

Football Champions (2000-17/18 Seasons)

Compiled by TONY CASTRO

Dwayne Mobley

YEAR

SCHOOL

W

L

.PCT

COACH

2000

Powell

3

0

1.000

Garofano, Mike

2001

Fox Chapel

2

1

.667

Isles, Troy

2001

Parrott

2

1

.667

Mobley, Dwayne

2002

West Hernando

3

0

1.000

Martinez, Benny

2003

Parrott

3

0

1.000

Mobley, Dwayne

2004

Parrott

3

0

1.000

Mobley, Dwayne

2005

Parrott

7

0

1.000

Mobley, Dwayne

2006

Parrott

7

1

.875

Mobley, Dwayne

2007

Parrott

6

0

1.000

Mobley, Dwayne

2008

Parrott

7

0

1.000

Mobley, Dwayne

2009

Parrott

7

0

1.000

Mobley, Dwayne

2010

Parrott

7

0

1.000

Mobley, Dwayne

2011

Parrott

7

0

1.000

Mobley, Dwayne

2012

Parrott

7

0

1.000

Clark, Clarence

2013

Explorer K-8

6

1

.857

Walden, Rob

2014

Parrott

6

0

1.000

Bingham, Shawn

2015

Parrott

6

0

1.000

Bingham, Shawn

2016

Challenger K-8

5

1

.833

Teitelman, Brett

2017

Parrott

6

0

1.000

Bland, Justin

-18-

-8-

 

AT A GLANCE

WHAT – 2018 Hernando County Middle School Athletic Conference Football Championship Game.

WHO – No. 2 seeded Challenger K-8 Navigators (6-1) vs. top-seeded Powell Panthers (7-0).

WHERE – Nature Coast Technical’s Shark Tank Stadium in Brooksville.

WHEN – 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 6

AT STAKE – Second-ever title for the Panthers and Navigators. Defending champion is Parrott.

 

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