This season will be Hernando High head coach Bill Vonada’s first group of players that have been with the program for four consecutive years.
His class of 2018 is a special one, in what could be a very special year for the Leopards, who haven’t earned a playoff berth since 2012. This group of Leopards could quite possibly steal the show from district-foe Nature Coast Tech, who comes off of a second straight ten-win season.
So how will they do it? It starts with a variety of offensive weapons and defensive rocks that will headline their 2017 campaign in the form of Ygenio Booker, David Hale Bronson, Tavis Drake, Lawrence Sansone, Isaac Fields, Colin Pagles, Josh Vonada – the list continues to grow for these guys.
Hernando features 21 seniors on its 2017 roster – most of which who have been under Vonada since he took over the HC position in 2014.
Those 21 seniors, combined with a myriad of other guys that have promise, make an interesting situation at Hernando.
“It’s a puzzle,” said assistant coach Rob Kazmier. “It’s a puzzle that we’re ridiculously excited to put together and see what works.”
Kazmier has, along with defensive coordinator Jon Malandrucco, taken over the track and field program at Hernando in addition to his responsibilities on the sidelines during the fall. He’s seen a number of his player develop through running track, just through the first two months of the season. Kazmier is anticipating a few of his athletes to advance to the state meet in early May.
One of those guys who’s developed immensely is Booker. You can read my in-depth player profile with him here, but even since then, he’s developed to be even more of a threat for the Leopards. Booker ranked fifth among all WRs at The Opening Orlando Regionals in February and received verbal offers from Troy and Tulane. He’s evolving into the kind of player that will make a huge impact for Hernando.
“He never gets a break. He goes straight from football to basketball and then to track. If he makes state, he’ll be overlapping spring football practice with his final track practices,” Kazmier said.
On the defensive side, Sansone will provide the Leopards with an excellent motor to keep running backs contained. Sansone compiled a team-high 106 tackles and Kazmier believes Sansone can match if not better that total in 2017.
“We’re going to have much better play along the defensive line this season, which will help us out in many different ways. Mainly for Lawerence, he’ll be able to move around a lot more and get some more tackles and disrupt the other team. Coach Vonada’s son, Josh, will also be very good for us in that linebacking corps.”
This Hernando team is evolving day-by-day and proving that it will not be easy to stop. Spring football will be a very important time for the Leopards to tinker with lineups and figure out a real plan of attack to go into the summer with.
Another unique and beneficial thing about the Leopards is the presence of coaches all around the other sports for the players to create bonds and relationships with them. It also helps with the development of the players throughout the offseason.
“Football coaches are everywhere. They’re at track, they’re at weightlifting, they’re always around our guys, instilling this competitive nature for our guys to feed off of. Because of that, I think our guys are developing very well. I had them doing ‘striders’ at track at the beginning of the season, and they just looked so awkward doing it, now their form is so much better, they look clean doing it, so it’s been awesome to see everyone’s development,” Kazmier said.
That development will prove key for rising juniors Bronson and Drake, who look to make an impact for Hernando in 2017. Bronson led all freshman and sophomore rushers in the North Suncoast regional with 632 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. He also caught 27 passes out of the backfield for another 339. “He’s just continuing the family lineage and we know he’s going to be even better. He’s a guy that plays with pure heart and he does whatever he can to be a good player.”
The one major hole for Hernando will be the quarterback situation, as they will lose Scott Bierwiler to graduation, in which Kazmier is confident they’ll figure out.
As for the rest of the positions, it’s still anyone’s guess.
“We’ve got a lot of moving and shaking going around. We’re not even sure what things are going to look like yet,” Kazmier said. “Either way, there’s an expectation that this is the way where everything that we’ve laid will come through. The players know that, the school knows that, and the community knows that. There’s no mistake about that.”