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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
BROOKSVILLE - You could start with the fact that Nature Coast committed four costly penalties; that the Sharks had a touchdown called back; that they lost two fumbles; that they somehow came out on the wrong end of a botched-snap-turned-roughing-the-punter call.
Nature Coast was able to survives its mistakes, many thanks to Josh Ortiz's 147 yards rushing and Stephen Palaez's 21-yard run on third-and-16 with 1:45 left, making the Sharks, at long last, winners.
A 1-yard touchdown run by Ortiz with three seconds left gave the Sharks a 15-10 win over area power Springstead, their first-ever win over a county opponent, capping off a crazy game that the Eagles appeared destined to win.
"A huge weight has been lifted off our shoulders," said Ortiz, a senior quarterback who gained 147 yards on 14 carries and propelled the Sharks' offense throughout the game. "We are no longer the doormats of our county."
At times, it appeared as if they were trying hard to keep that title.
All 10 Springstead points resulted from Nature Coast mistakes. An unsportsmanlike penalty in the first quarter turned what would have been a punting situation into an Eagles first down. Nine running plays later, Springstead quarterback John Hogeland scored for a 7-0 Eagles lead.
Ortiz tied the game on a 53-yard touchdown run with 11:07 left in the second quarter, but Springstead took a 10-7 lead into halftime after Josh Magrini kicked a 42-yard field goal. The kick capped a 99-yard drive that featured a critical offside penalty on the Sharks that gave the Eagles, backed up against their own goal line, breathing room.
"I'm not going to lie," Ortiz said, "you start to wonder."
In the fourth quarter, the Sharks appeared to get a lucky bounce when a snap sailed over a punter's head. But Nature Coast was called for a roughing-the-kicker penalty, turning what would have been a first down on the Eagles 45-yard line into a first down for Springstead on the Sharks' 45.
But Nature Coast persevered, eating up 76 yards in 13 plays in the final 3:52. Palaez broke off a 21-yard run that helped set up Ortiz's score on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
"No question about it, without a doubt, this is the biggest win in our program's history," Sharks coach Jamie Joyner said.
After the game, Springstead wide receiver Jason Haynes was airlifted off the field after he appeared to be hyperventilating. The feeling among those monitoring the situation on the field was that the move was precautionary.