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Hernando hires Earl Garcia III to take over football program

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Hernando hired Earl Garcia III to take over the football program. Garcia III, the son of longtime Hillsborough Coach Earl Garcia, spent nearly a decade as a defensive coordinator for his father. 

The Terriers posted 25 shutouts during Garcia III’s tenure. He also coached three players who are currently in the NFL: Azeez Al-Shaair (San Francisco 49ers), Anthony Brown (Dallas Cowboys) and Nigel Harris (Tennessee Titans).

Still, despite that success Garcia III was not actively looking to become a head coach.

“Another party got involved and that got the ball rolling,” Garcia III said of the job at Hernando. “I was happy in my spot at Hillsborough. Becoming a head coach was something I never really talked about with my dad.

“This is a program with a lot of history, kind of like Hillsborough,” Garcia III said. “Both schools have been around since before the Great Depression.”

Garcia III was officially hired on Wednesday. He said plans to bring in former Robinson assistant Rob Burns to be his offensive coordinator. On Monday, Garcia III will meet the players for the first time.

Garcia III replaces Rob Kazmier, who stepped down earlier this month to spend more time with his family.

“I loved Coach Garcia’s energy, passion, vision and determination to get our football program to the level we want to be at,” Hernando principal Leechele Booker said in a release. “We are happy to welcome Coach Garcia and his family into the purple and gold family.”

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The Hernando County Football Player of the Week

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FB/LB Zack Buzze, Sr., Central

This season has been challenging for the winless Bears. 

Outscored 325-22 in eight games, Central tries to accentuate the positives to build upon next season.  

Zack Buzze is one of the bright spots. The linebacker leads the team in tackles with 44. 

Against Gulf two weeks ago, Buzze recorded a team-high 13 tackles. 

That got the attention of fans. Buzze received 49 percent of the votes (699) in the Hernando County football player of the week poll to beat out Hernando’s Jordan Williams, who had 44 percent (628 votes).

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The Pasco County Football Player of the Week

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Hunter McFarland, Sr., Mitchell

After losing 26 players to graduation, Mitchell needed to fill plenty of voids to make the playoffs for the eighth straight season. 

Hunter McFarland has stepped up on defense. 

The senior is enjoying the best season of his high school career. He has 53 tackles, more than he had in his previous two seasons combined. 

McFarland also a nose for the ball — and the quarterback. He has forced three fumbles, recorded 3 ½ sacks and recovered two fumbles. 

Against Hudson two weeks ago, McFarland finished with five tackles, two fumble recoveries, a sack and forced fumble to lead the Mustangs to a victory. 

Fans were impressed. McFarland ended up with 52 percent of the votes (1,462) in the Pasco County football player of the week poll to beat out Zephyrhills Christian’s Jayce Nixon, who had 34 percent (955 votes).  

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The Pinellas County Football Player of the Week

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LB Garrick Ponder, Sr., Pinellas Park

A transfer from Seminole, Garrick Ponder wasted no time making an impact. 

The senior not only became a starter but also turned into one of the area’s defensive stars.

Ponder leads the Patriots in tackles (72), sacks, (six), forced fumbles (three) and fumble recoveries (two). Those numbers are a big reason the Patriots are 6-1 and currently tied with Northeast for second place in Class 6A, District 11. 

Against St,. Petersburg, Ponder had one of his best performances, finishing with 14 tackles and a sack. 

Fans were impressed. Ponder received 40 percent of the votes (812) in the Pinellas County football player of the week poll to beat out Keswick Christian’s Caleb Morris, who had 32 percent (646).   

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