With exhibition action taking place last week, spring football reached its official conclusion for teams around the state.
For local squads, it brought mostly good news and elicited plenty of excitement moving forward into the summer.
Here’s a recap of how each team faired this spring.
WHAT HAPPENED?: The Hurricanes pounded visiting Belleview on May 17, 40-0, making it a successful (unofficial) debut for new head coach Robert O’Brien. Citrus, coming off a 4-6 season, produced 617 yards of total offense.
SPRING STANDOUTS: In the game, quarterback Connor Bishop completed 10 of 14 passes for 274 yards with two touchdowns. The soon-to-be senior, already a two-year starter, has been "a leader from Day 1," according to O’Brien. Jacob Freier and T.J. Weems, expected to be a 1-2 punch at wingback as seniors, also brought production and leadership, and O’Brien was impressed with the effort of the offensive line. Malachi Cooks, who will be a junior, caught seven passes for 196 yards and two scores against Belleview.
COACH’S OUTLOOK: "I thought it was a great learning experience," O’Brien said. "With a new system, it took some time for myself to get to know the coaches, their coaching styles, and for the kids to know my coaching style. It took a few weeks. I’m impressed with how the kids came out with energy from the first practice. They brought a lot of intensity."
SUMMER PLANS: "It’s a spring game. I know everyone is excited about it. I’m excited, as well. But it’s a spring game. We haven’t scratched the surface yet," O’Brien said. "It’s about continuing to get better every single day and not relying on one win in a spring game. We have a lot of work to do."
WHAT HAPPENED?: The Pirates hosted Williston on May 16 and pulled out a 14-12 victory, scoring a touchdown in the final seconds. Coming off an 8-3 campaign that saw it reach the playoffs, Crystal River has to move forward without graduating star running back DeAndre Parker, among others.
SPRING STANDOUTS: Kiontae Harvey, set to be a senior, has the task of replacing Parker and tallied 63 yards on 15 carries, and quarterback Ethan McDaniel went 5 of 5 passing for 62 yards, throwing for a touchdown and adding 32 rushing yards. Noah Bresson, who will be a senior at linebacker and running back, and offensive lineman Garner Langlo, who will be a junior, also drew praise from head coach Cliff Lohrey.
COACH’S OUTLOOK: "We’re similar to everyone else, we got to play somebody else after four weeks of practice," Lohrey said. "We did a lot of good things, we just made too many mistakes and we’ve got to continue to get better this summer.
"No matter what, if it’s a spring game or a (preseason) classic, when you come out with a victory you feel confident in the program. We had a lot of our junior varsity players playing in the fourth quarter. For them to contribute to a win speaks volumes of what we’re trying to do in our program."
SUMMER PLANS: "Our work ethic has got to continue to spread throughout the whole team," Lohrey said. "We’ve got a lot of guys who have to step up on the varsity and it’s a matter of us continuing to come together as a team and as a family. Our job as coaches is to put us in the best place to be successful."
WHAT HAPPENED?: In a game that wasn’t as close as the final score, the Tigers defeated visiting Springstead on May 16, 28-22. Dunnellon, which was 8-6 and reached the Final Four in Class 4A in 2018, led 28-14 before the JV took over in the fourth quarter.
SPRING STANDOUTS: Running back Emmanuel Caballero, a senior in 2019-20, ran for two touchdowns, L.J. Fitzpatrick added a rushing score, and Javon Lee threw a touchdown pass to Christian Fashaw. The soon-to-be junior Fashaw filled in at quarterback since starter Trent Townsend is among several baseball players unavailable while that team continues its postseason run. Senior receiver/safety Jay Fraziars, verbally committed to Florida, is also with the baseball team, among 15 players total who missed the spring. Two players who will be juniors, linebacker/receiver Sam Wryals and cornerback/slot back Ricardo Jiminez, impressed coaches, along with the offensive line led by center Sam Rodriguez, another junior next season.
COACH’S OUTLOOK: "Overall I thought spring was like every spring. We got an idea about what it’s going to be like in the fall," Dunnellon head coach Price Harris said. "We graduated four linebackers, so it was a goal this spring to find replacements at linebacker.
"It was a pretty physical spring, which I felt like we needed. I’m never happy, happy. There’s still a lot of work, but the guys had a great attitude and put forth a lot of effort."
SUMMER PLANS: "I’m excited about the summer," Harris said. "We’ll do a lot of different camps; do some 7-on-7s we don’t normally go to. It’ll be a little different, but for the most part we’ll stick around here, try to get strong and try to get in shape."
WHAT HAPPENED?: The Panthers hosted Lakewood Ranch on May 16 and lost 35-30. Lecanto, 3-7 a year ago, jumped out to a 10-0 advantage, but when younger players entered in the second quarter the Mustangs scored three touchdowns. The veterans re-entered in the second half and managed to close the gap.
COACH’S OUTLOOK: "Our offense did some good stuff. Scoring 30 points ain’t too shabby," Lecanto head coach Greg Harper said. "I thought we did some good things. We were too inconsistent, but it’s something to build on."
SUMMER PLANS: "We’ll be working out all summer," Harper said. "This summer is pretty short, only eight or nine weeks. It goes by fast. We’ll have workouts and 7-on-7 and send guys off to camps. We’ve got to continue to get better at everything we do."
Seven Rivers Christian
WHAT HAPPENED?: The Warriors, 1-9 in 2018, hosted a jamboree on May 16, playing three 30-minute, running-clock periods against First Academy-Leesburg, Bronson and Faith Christian. No score was kept.
SPRING STANDOUTS: Quarterback Nehemiah Vann, who will be a freshman after taking over as a starter as an eighth-grader, was the leading rusher with four carries for 32 yards, and the leading tackler with six, including two for a loss. Carmelo Cordero, a slot receiver and safety, wide receiver Alex Eden, linebacker Ian Richardson and running back/wide receiver Matthew Taylor also made an impression. The Warriors were missing five players this spring who are with the baseball team, including versatile All-Chronicle selection C.J. Phillips.
COACH’S OUTLOOK: "It gave us more time to look at what the younger guys could do," Seven Rivers head coach Monty Vann said. "We were gauging where the young guys are at. Some guys stepped up throughout the spring who are competing for starting spots. … It was a good measuring stick to see what those guys could do.
SUMMER PLANS: "We’ll work out, do 7-on-7, pretty much work out every day," Coach Vann said. "We’re having our leadership push other guys to make sure they’re there."