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Tuesday morning quarterback

By DAVID MURPHY
Published September 5, 2006


Tuesday morning quarterback: Nature Coast-Springstead edition

NOTE: Every Monday, we'll take a look at the previous Friday's football action on the Hernando County prep sports blog at blogs.tampabay.com/preps. Each Tuesday, we'll run a shortened version in the paper.

Chaos had erupted on the football field at Nature Coast. The Sharks had just pulled off a 15-10 upset of county powerhouse Springstead and no one wearing black and power blue seemed to know what to do. Students mixed with players and players mixed with coaches and a team of Hernando County sheriff's deputies - no doubt aware of the fight between the schools during a basketball game last winter -warily eyed the scene.

But there was no need for police. Only order. And so Nature Coast coach Jamie Joyner stood near the 50-yard line, a post-game daze on his face, and yelled at the top of his lungs, "To the scoreboard!"

Two minutes later, the entire Sharks team stood at the back of the south end zone, hooting and hollering and listening to Joyner speak, the red glow of scoreboard hovering above them.

0:00.

15-10.

We'll start with the observation Joyner made in the wake of the last-minute victory, secured by senior quarterback Josh Ortiz's 1-yard touchdown run with three seconds remaining: This was the biggest win in the history of the Sharks program. And that's not even arguable.

Heading into the Springstead game, Nature Coast had won just five games total in its three-year history. None of those wins had come against a county opponent, let alone against the juggernaut Springstead has become over the past few years.

Joyner used the word "defining moment" and he was 100 percent correct. The Sharks still were plagued by the mistakes that have haunted them their first three seasons of varsity play. They fumbled the ball away twice. They had a touchdown called back because of a penalty. They committed a penalty that extended the Springstead drive that led to its only touchdown of the game.

But against a quality opponent, Nature Coast overcame all of those mistakes. Where the Sharks go from here remains to be seen. They can't keep committing those mistakes. But they showed they can hang. And for everyone on the field last Friday night, that is the only thing that mattered.

ORTIZ COMES THROUGH

The early leader for county Player of the Year has to be Ortiz, who racked up 147 yards on 14 carries and broke off touchdown runs of 53 and 1 yard. To say he single-handedly won the game for Nature Coast would be a disservice to a Sharks defense that stymied the Eagles' running game. But consider this: The Sharks ran 33 plays from scrimmage on offense. Ortiz was directly involved in 23 of them.

Mark Haslem rushed six times for 19 yards. Eric Williams carried four times for 19. Stephen Pelaez rushed one time for 21 yards. Aside from that, it was all Ortiz: 14 running plays, eight passing plays. Of those 22 plays, 10 gained 10 yards or more. The quarterback did most of his damage on simple option-keeper plays, most to the right side of the field.

"He was huge for us," Pelaez said. "You've got to have a big game out of your quarterback."

PROPER RESPECT

Though Springstead and Nature Coast aren't exactly bosom buddies, both teams made their schools proud by the way they conducted themselves on the field. "On the field, we hate each other," Ortiz said after the game. "But I give Springstead all the respect in the world. Coach (Bill) Vonada is a great coach. They played hard and they deserved to win."

[Last modified September 5, 2006, 07:35:20]


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