Leopards will play without
starting nose guard (Ahne)
and middle linebacker (McCombs)
By TONY CASTRO
F.W. Springstead isn’t the only team to feel the injury pinch so early in the season.
The Eagles, who are coming off a bye week, aren’t expecting to play two starting defensive starters in middle linebacker Adrian Cabrera (shoulder) and corner backer Robert Burgos.(broken ankle).
But things aren’t much better down the street at Hernando High.
The Leopards, who are coming off a 7-0 shutout at Bramlett Stadium in Crystal River, are reeling.
The Leopards, who are employing a fourth-string quarterback in senior Maurice Holland, slid to 1-3 overall thanks to last Friday’s night’s loss in Citrus County.
Besides beginning Class 5A, District 8 play with a setback, the Leopards are dealing with a myriad of other issues.
Last Friday, one of its junior varsity football players, freshman Trevor Bowen, was killed by a motorist en route to school.
His funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at Brooksville’s Grace World Church.
His teammates honored him with No. 11 decals – his jersey number – during Thursday’s season-ending victory over Citrus High.
The Leopards’ small roster appears to be M*A*S*H unit.
According to the second-year skipper Robert Kazmier, two defensive starters – nose guard Jonathan Ahne and middle
linebacker Austin McCombs, are both not playing.
Ahne, like sophomore running Matthew Gillespie , have not practiced due to concussion protocol in place.
McCombs, who had an outstanding game against CRHS with 12 tackles, has been suspended per a disciplinary incident.
To help fill the void, HHS promoted two freshmen junior varsity players in Brian Lewis and Robert Turner.
It was also learned that junior defensive tackle Connor Morgan has joined the team.
Morgan, the Leopards’ starting third baseman and 2018 All-County selection, will see playing time beginning at 7:30 p.m. Friday against visiting Wildwood.
The Leopards, who benched three seniors including Isaiah Brown, Qwenton Coney and Jaquan Spry leading up to last Friday night’s game.
Coach Kazmier said the HHS coaches sent a clear message to older Leopard players to quit taking plays off and stopping playing when they wanted to play.
Kazmier admitted that Leopard defense “showed some backbone Friday against Crystal River but the offense turned the ball over three times and made too many mistakes to capitalize.
“It seemed like we were six inches away from a score here or shoe string tackle there from tying that game up,” noted Kazmier. “We’re getting guys in the right position but we can‘t finish drives off. We’ve been inconsistent offensively.
“Yeah, we’ve made some strides. MJ (Holland) is beginning to figure some things out. But he missed a read on one pass and we dropped another. We’ve gotta have all 11 guys on every play,” explained Kazmier.
The Leopards, who were out-rushed 171-115, could not over come three lost turnovers including two dropped fumbles and an interception.
“We’ve moved the ball all season, but you’ve got to protect the football,“ he stressed. We’ve added a lot to our offense. Now, we’re trying to simply things for our protection.”
Wildwood arrives coming off a 41-0 to Crescent City.
The Wildcats have their own issues.
Two weeks ago, the ’Cats ended an 18-14 win in chaos against Leesburg.
The game ended with both benches emptying.
The FHSAA has not officially ruled on the matter.
One of Wildwood’s best players was hurt against Leesburg.
“We’re expecting them to dress all their guys out. That’s all we can expect,” admitted Kazmier. “Who plays? That we have no control over. They’re more of a spread team with all their players. They were more run-oriented last week.”
Kazmie readily admits, “They’ve got some special kids over there. We have to assume they will all be playing. If they’re all there, they‘re a very dangerous team.”
“Despite everything that has happened here, were a handful of plays away from being a 3-1 football team,” defended Kazmier.