Hernando hopes Marion
County schools open,
to play this weekend
By TONY CASTRO
Frustration could easily be sensed from Brooksville to Spring Hill with second-year skipper Robert Kazmier’s tone Tuesday afternoon.
You see, things begin to get testy when Hernando High opens a season with back-to-back losses.
It’s one thing, according to Coach Kazmier, to open with the toughest team on your schedule, falling to powerhouse, Lakeland-Lake Gibson, 43-0.
It’s another thing traveling 130 miles to play Melbourne-Eau Gallie and allowing them to score a late touchdown to win 13-7 in week 2.
The Leopards, who finished 6-4 last season and reached the FHSAA state playoffs, graduated its entire offensive backfield.
This year, the Purple and Gold return two starters on offense and not much else.
Sure, 5-foot-11, 270-pound Sam Fleming is back at center and so is right guard William Bartz.
Bartz, who is listed at 5-foot-10, 240 pounds, is one of two returning All-Hernando County all-stars for the Brooksville gridders.
Senior left guard Broc Valdez – an All-County Baseball selection, has position new home.
Two other O-line newcomers feature – 6-foot-2, 292-pound freshman Devin Williams will anchor left tackle while 6-foot-4, 275-pound Hayden Foster relocated from Central High to Hernando High holding down right tackle.
Look for junior Shawn Bingham Jr. to hold down tight end with 6-foot-4 and All-County cager senior Jacob Batten at one wide out and Fred Scrivens Jr. at the other.
Sophomore Jordan Williams will back up either wide out slot.
In a refurbished backfield, so far, HHS has utilized four different fullbacks.
So far, Andre Woods couldn‘t cut the mustard and Ja’quan Spry is injured.
Heading into Week 3, HHS is intending to utilize a combination of Qwenton Coney and and Cordell Warthen.
At tailback, Ke’von Williams is sharing time with Shavaris McNair.
Both have the ability to break a long run, but neither has gotten untracked.
That’s one of the reasons why a Hernando offense that averaged almost 30 points per game last fall, is averaging seven points this year – a lack of punch.
There’s no Israel Fields – with 20 touchdowns , no shifty outside threat without David Hale Bronson.
Plus, the team’s two-year starter under center, Boston Tafelski, also graduated.
As insiders knew, Tafelski, operated that offense as well as anyone could.
Without Tafelski, the Leopards have been trying to run the boat without a captain.
Junior Perry Grant was originally offered the quarterback job.
Neither he nor Jordan Laing won the job.
Senior Isaiah Brown is currently splitting time under center with Maurice Holland.
Problem is with Brown under center, that limits Hernando’s ability to throw the ball to one of its better receivers.
According to Coach Kaz, Holland is the team’s best candidate to hold down the quarterback job.
Trouble is he needs snaps and the reps to execute the offense.
The Leopards began the week with Spry and Coney – two of its key 26 players on the varsity roster – nursing injuries.
Coney was taped up and played Friday in Melbourne but Spry was held out.
Defensively, the Leopards return five starters from a unit that allowed just over 15 points per game last season.
Utilizing former skipper Bill Vonada’s scheme, the Leopards line up in a base 3-5 look.
Jonathan Ahne anchors the nose guard while Coney and Warthen serve as defensive tackles.
Coney, listed at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, is the other returning All-County All-Star.
Coney supplied 17.5 tackles and 21 quarterback pressures behind the line of scrimmage last fall.
Spry, who is listed at 6-foot, 215 pounds, amassed 87 tackles including 12.0 hits behind the line of scrimmage last season.
The linebacking corps features returning starter Austin McCombs as the middle linebacker. He totaled 90 tackles last season, including two behind the line.
HHS’ two new inside linebackers include 6-foot-1 sophomore cruise missile Samuel Sternberger and Isaiah Brown.
The Leopards have utilized a three-member rotation to man its two outside linebacker spots with Scrivens, Bingham and junior G’Kolby Winn.
Sophomore Jordan Williams, who intercepted a pass in his first varsity game last years as a freshman, anchors one corner position while Maurice Holland anchors the other.
McNair returns as free safety for the Leopards.
When the Leopards drop into punt formation Bradley Smith is the ert-while first-year long snapper.
While Grant returns as punter.
Grant will also hold down all the other kicking chores while Jordan Williams does the holding on extra points and kicks.
With a razor thin roster, Kazmier understands his team needs to be get in better shape to be able to go deeper into games.
Coach Kaz took exception to his team getting called for targeting “leading with the crown of the helmet” against Eau Gallie’s smallish tailback.
“We weren’t targeting anybody. It was a hard hitting game. Their guy wasn’t very big and everything we got close to him, he’d go into a ball. And just like that we’d get a flag. I’ve seen anything like it.”
“…But we’re not a dirty team. We weren’t going after anybody. The guys play till they hear a whistle,” noted Coach Kaz.
Friday‘s game at Tom Fisher Memorial Stadium is pending approval from Marion County officials.
As of this time, they have not given the green light for their teams to play this weekend.
“We need to get that game in,” insisted Kazmier. “Other people have approached us about playing but we have a agreement with Lake Weir. We want to play them before looking elsewhere for games.
“…I wouldn’t be opposed to playing Lake Weir on Saturday. That would give them time to get some practice in and get ready for us, too.”
Sitting at 0-2 doesn’t sit well with Coach Kaz.
“We made some improvements from Week 1 against a juggernaut Lake Gibson team,” noted Kaz. “But we’ve got to make an even better jump to get ready for districts next week against Crystal River at Crystal River.
“We had our chances (to win) against Eau Gaullie. But we allowed them to go down the field and score the go-ahead touchdown to win the game. That was on us. We start bickering among ourselves on some silly penalties, instead concentrating on our assignments. That was on us.”
Searching for positives, “We rushed for over 250 yards against an excellent Lake Gibson team. Then last week, we moved the ball between the 20s. But we have to learn to finish.
“Our O-line, particularly Bartz, Fleming and Valdez have played hard. But there’s a learning curve for the others.”
Pointing to his defense, Hernando registered two interceptions against Eau Gallie.
“We forced multiple turnovers – that’s great to see,“ said Kazmier. “We had had five turnovers in the spring game. We’ve got an aggressive unit but we have play like that.
“What I liked was our physicality against Lake Gibson and Eau Gallie. We didn’t back down. We’ve seen more size and speed than we did last year. This will only help us get ready for Crystal River and everybody else.“
On what Coach Kazmier is wants draw upon this weekend – should the Leopards play, “Everything comes down to execution,” explained Kazmier. “If we don’t execute, we’ll continue looking. All the little things you do to win games add up.”