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Leopards brace for 'Canes

By Compiled by Greg Auman and Brant James

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000

In preparing for Friday's district showdown with Citrus, Hernando has been working hard to be able to recognize the Hurricanes' offensive formations.

All 18 of them, by head coach Bill Browning's count.

"Eighteen different formations -- that's really a lot for a high school team," said Browning, whose offense typically will show 4-6 formations a game.

"They're definitely going to give us more looks than any other team this season."

Even compared to that offense, the Leopards' playoff perspective is pretty complicated.

They can say they control their own destiny, but it isn't quite that simple. A win doesn't necessarily mean the Leopards are in the playoffs, and a loss doesn't necessarily eliminate them.

The district's two playoff spots will be decided by the Citrus-Hernando and Central-Crystal River games.

If Hernando and Crystal River win, the Leopards are in as the second playoff team. If Hernando and Central win, there's a three-way tie for first, and the Bears, Leopards and Pirates would meet in a shootout Monday.

If Crystal River wins, then Central, Citrus and Hernando are tied for the second berth, forcing another potential shootout.

Browning said he never has participated in such a tie-breaker.He discussed the playoff scenarios briefly with his players Monday but said he wouldn't devote any significant practice time to preparing for such a possibility.

"That's the last we're going to worry about the scenarios," Browning said.

"We can't control the Central-Crystal River game, and we're focusing on what we can control. All we're concerned about is Friday night."

On the other end of the district, Springstead can avoid finishing last with a win Friday at Lecanto.

The Eagles (1-7) spent much of the past two seasons as a team known for its losing streak, so coach Bill Vonada can relate to the winless Panthers' perspective.

"We can certainly understand where they're coming from," said Vonada, whose squad gave talented Land O'Lakes a run in last week's 20-13 loss.

For the first time since early in the season, Vonada isn't scrambling to replace any injured players.

In fact, the Eagles can add a player to last week's lineup. Junior tailback/defensive back Steve Garofano, who was suspended for disciplinary reasons, will return.

Garofano's replacements fared well against the Gators, as Dan LaRocca and Kevin Szudarek came up with key interceptions for the Eagles.

Vonada said his team's improvements are a result of backups stepping up when pressed into bigger roles.

"We've had lots of guys picking up the slack," he said. "It seems every week we've had to shuffle the lineup, but people have filled in well."

Vonada has bolstered his roster with call-ups from the junior varsity, including freshman Joe Vitale, who has two starts at center, and sophomore Jesse Downs, who started at defensive tackle.

SENIOR HONORED: Chad Schneider hasn't played for the Leopards since the middle of last season, when he suffered a neck injury against Central that ended his football career.

Schneider was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the vertebra, which kept him on the sidelines, but Browning said that hasn't kept him from contributing.

"He came back and helped us as an assistant line coach on the JV team," said Browning, who had Schneider starting as a sophomore two years ago. "He's done an outstanding job, and I consider him one of the seniors on this team."

ROUND GAYNOR: Central running back Tim Gaynor, on a possession that started at the Bears' 1, rushed five times for 65 yards.

That included a 15-yarder on third-and-6 from the 5, a 6-yarder on third-and-3 from the 47 and a 33-yarder on third-and-3 from the Raider 40.

Gaynor, fittingly, capped the drive by pin-balling off potential tacklers for a 6-yard touchdown in a 31-23 loss to South Sumter.

HUGE PLAY: Central suffered a key defensive breakdown last Friday night with South Sumter leading 24-20 seconds into the fourth quarter.

Raiders quarterback A.J. Bryant rolled left and found Jerod Jordan completely alone for a 32-yard score. Safety Todd Joa was the nearest Bear -- if 24 yards away is near -- and had no chance to make a tackle.

Chase Evans, the cornerback on the left side Jordan exploited, apparently was playing a zone defense near the line of scrimmage.

"I have to watch film on that one," Crognale said. "I don't know what formation it was to dictate the coverage we were in, but we got crossed up on our formations and our coverage."

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