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Friday night rewind

By BRANT JAMES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 29, 2002


GAME BALLS

ROD ROBERTS, HERNANDO: The junior running back rushed 16 times for a game-high 171 yards and opened the Leopards' 33-23 win over Central with a 73-yard touchdown.

ART STARKS, HERNANDO: The senior who underwent reconstructive knee surgery last fall scored his first touchdown in a year and rushed for 73 yards on seven carries.

HERNANDO'S OFFENSIVE LINE: The Leopards' 290 rushing yards were not all the product of talented running backs.

ANTONIO BROWN, HERNANDO: The sophomore X-factor scored a 26-yard touchdown on a reverse, and returned an interception 65 yards for a touchdown.

TIM GAYNOR, CENTRAL: The senior fullback did his best to bring the Bears' comeback attempt to fruition, rushing 27 times for 150 yards and a 22-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

STEVE MARTIN, CENTRAL: The senior fullback maximized his carries with 1- and 4-yard touchdowns.

TIM DOW, SPRINGSTEAD: The sophomore back had 43 rushing yards at halftime en route to a 102-yard performance.

JOSE YEARWOOD, SPRINGSTEAD: The junior scored two touchdowns on 23-yard and 6-yard scores, the latter cutting Lecanto's 10-point halftime lead to 16-13.

UNCLE JOHN IS PROUD

Hernando alum John Capel added a little celebrity splash to the Leopards' sideline, but he was there to see, not be seen.

His nephew, Hernando sophomore cornerback Antonio Brown, made it worth his while.

"That's my nephew right there!" Capel yelled as he jogged down the sideline during Brown's interception return.

Brown did not know Capel, who was cut from the Kansas City Chiefs developmental squad last week, would be at the game. He soaked in the free advice on the sidelines when he was able.

"He told me not to be scared out there," Brown said. "And that I look a little bit like him when I get in the game. It made me do better."

Capel's ability to latch on with another NFL team will dictate his attendance at Leopards games. He said he might soon try out with the Baltimore Ravens.

COMEBACK

Who knows what Art Starks' role will be the remainder of the season. If junior Jagren Castillo can come back from a high ankle sprain, the senior will certainly play more in the secondary. Rod Roberts' continued emergence will demand carries for him also.

But at least Starks can say he did it. His knee injury was so severe, it was widely assumed he would never play again. Starks' determination was so fanatical he wore a 50-pound weight vest under his uniform at Taco Bell this summer to strengthen his legs. He was not cleared to begin taking contact until late in the summer.

Playing with a prescription brace, he's lost some flexibility and probably a step of his once-superior speed. College recruiters will wince when they see the scar from his reconstructive surgery, one that repaired two major ligaments and removed his meniscus.

Maybe Starks will get a shot to play football somewhere if he continues to work hard. Maybe he won't. Some players get lost when their athletic careers end. But if Starks applies the same dogged determination to his next goal in life, he's a soul no one will ever have to worry over.

JUST AN OBSERVATION

How good could Hernando be next year? Backs Jagren Castillo, who entered this week as the county's top rusher, Rod Roberts (171 yards this week), Antonio Brown (offensive and defensive touchdowns this week) and much of the defense, including linebacker Andres Lawson, return.

Hernando's Brad Wyatt has become a solid quarterback as a senior. He's confident, poised, and throws much better than when he assumed the job as an athletic but overwhelmed underclassman.

Little things do mean a lot. A Lecanto safety with 4:16 remaining in the first quarter proved to be the difference in the Panthers' 23-21 win. Springstead kicker Mike Hibbert attempted a 52-yard field goal in the fourth quarter that was almost good and would have given Springstead a 24-23 lead.

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