By CAREY FREEMAN
© St. Petersburg Times,
published November 3, 2001
CRYSTAL RIVER -- Hernando can take this to the bank: Statistically, the Leopards were better than Crystal River.
They outgained the Pirates on the ground. They outgained them through the air. They also had the game's leading rusher and its top receiver.
But don't let the stats fool you. A truer analysis of the two teams could be found on the scoreboard.
Crystal River 35, Hernando 14.
It wasn't even that close. Crystal River (9-1) led 35-0 before Hernando scored its first touchdown. As for the statistical advantage, that was as much a product of that situation as anything.
Hernando (3-7) gained 171 of its 285 total yards in the second half, and almost all of it against the Pirates second and third string. That would include tailback Jagren Castillo and his game-high 173 yards, 118 of which came in the second half. Most came in the fourth quarter.
"I think we were ready to play," Pirates coach Jere DeFoor said. "But you have to give Hernando credit. They came out that first series or two and stuck us."
It's hard to tell whether Hernando stepped up on the first two drives, or whether Crystal River was simply looking ahead to its playoff opener next week.
The Leopards held the Pirates on their first two series -- recovering a Ryan McNally fumble and forcing a punt -- but that wouldn't last long thanks to a rigid defensive front and some nice return work from Clayton Trenary.
Crystal River marched 84 yards for its opening score -- an 8-yard run from McNally -- and piled on three more scores before the half behind 87 first-half yards from tailback Chianta Smith (11 carries, 104 yards).
"I've been practicing hard and the line helped a lot also," Smith said. "They were keying on (McNally) and that opened it up for me to shine."
This time it wasn't the just the offense that provided the fireworks, but special teams and defense too.
Scott Miller was the next to hit paydirt, taking an interception 30 yards with 9:22 to play in the half. The Pirates followed that with an 88-yard drive capped by an 11-yard run by McNally (65 yards, two touchdowns) then closed out the first-half scoring with a 63-yard punt return by Trenary.
Crystal River opened the second with a 67-yard drive that ended with a 29-yard scoring pass from Trenary to Will Bleakley.
After that it was all Hernando. Steve Cassell scored the Leopards first touchdown with 5:42 to play and Castillo followed with a 64-yard jaunt with 1:29 to play.