Round 1 Preview
Heading into the final week of the regular season, it was fairly clear that South Sumter and Hernando would be meeting to kick off the post-season. Hernando was the fourth seed. South Sumter was the fifth seed. South Sumter went on to win their regular-season finale over Newberry by a score of 42-0. Hernando defeated Lecanto by a score of 27-15. Then, once the dust settled and the final RPI standings were set, the match-up was confirmed. The only twist was that South Sumter jumped Hernando for the fourth spot. Bushnell and Brooksville, two small towns with a wealth of tradition and pride, will collide on Friday night and Inman Sherman Field will be rockin’. Here are some key players to watch.
2025 LB Malakhi Boone – 6’2” 230 lbs
This is probably the first time you will see this name, but I can promise that it won’t be the last. You just don’t see many freshmen who are built like this. Malakhi is a rare talent who is having an outstanding freshman season. South Sumter has produced some big-time linebackers over the years, so keep your eyes on him. It is going to be fun to watch him develop. During the regular season, Malakhi was in on 83 total tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, and 1 interception. He also saw some time on offense.
2024 RB Jamare Dorsey – 5’9” 177 lbs
Jamare gave us a solid preview of his ability during his freshman season. He has stepped up as a sophomore and become the Raiders’ leading rusher. He has a great blend of speed and power and runs hard. He isn’t afraid of contact. In the regular season, he carried the ball 132 times for 789 yards and 13 touchdowns.
2023 QB Eian Finkley – 6’2” 205 lbs
Following the graduation of three-year starter Garhett Miller, Finkley stepped into the South Sumter quarterback position and did a tremendous job leading his young team to the playoffs. The junior has a strong arm and can do some damage with his legs also. During the regular season, he completed 60 out of 123 passing attempts for 708 yards and 4 touchdowns. He carried the ball 64 times for 339 yards and 5 touchdowns.
2022 OT Austin Cowart – 6’5” 335 lbs
Cowart’s veteran presence and physical blocking has helped fuel the Raiders’ offense this season. They run the ball 79% of the time. Their opponents know this, yet they still rolled up 2,454 rushing yards and 38 rushing touchdowns this season. As a team, South Sumter averaged 5.3 yards per carry and 245 rushing yards per game. Cowart gets off the ball well and knows how to use his hands. He has that bully mentality and finishes blocks with an emphasis.
2022 RB/CB Jordan Williams – 5’9” 155 lbs
Jordan has been doing it all this season. He rarely steps off of the field. Offensively, he has 105 touches for 679 yards and 6 touchdowns. He is currently Hernando’s leading rusher. Defensively, the four-year starter has 51 total tackles, 33 solo, 4 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 interceptions, and he has forced one safety. He is an all-around good athlete. He is fearless and has good football intelligence.
2022 RB/LB Brian Lewis – 5’9” 183 lbs
Brian has been battling some injuries this season. He has kept his chin up though, and he is probably playing his best football when it matters most. In eight games, he has carried the ball 87 times for 631 yards and 8 touchdowns. He is averaging a team-best 7.3 yards per carry. He has some good speed and elusiveness. He is a tough kid who fights hard to extend his runs.
2022 LB/TE Sam Sternberger – 6’2” 215 lbs
Sternberger is arguably the best defensive player in Hernando County. The three-year starter has been playing his tail off this season. He has 107 total tackles, 67 solo, 17 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks. As the season has progressed, he has seen his time on offense increase as well. He has proven to be a great option at tight end for the Leopards. He also continues to be one of the area’s best long-snappers and special teams players.
2022 OT Hayden Foster – 6’4” 275 lbs
Foster is having a great senior season for Hernando. The Leopards seem to be having a good amount of success running behind him. Due to his outstanding work ethic, he has improved his run-blocking significantly. He is playing lower and using his hands much better than in the past. This has helped him get better fits on defenders and allows him to maintain and finish those blocks.