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County QBs, WRs rewrote football record books in 2017

Posted on Saturday, November 11, 2017 at 12:01 am

By Ken Jackson
Sports Editor

As football moves into the offseason, the first order of business for many coaching staffs: put new light bulbs in the scoreboards, and re-write many record books entries.

It was the passing game lines that were under assault in 2017. For the first time, three county quarterbacks threw for over 1,800 yards.

Thanks to back-to-back 300-yard games to end the season (four in total), Harmony junior Nate Herstich threw for 2,361 yards, a new school record and the most in Osceola County since E.J. White went for 2,719 in 2008, which included a playoff game.

Going back to 1999, when Poinciana’s David Tabor set a high bar with 2,293 passing yards, Liberty’s Jaelen Ray (2,208) and Colt Smith (1,890) had the fourth and eighth-highest season totals in the last 20 seasons.

Liberty senior wideout Mario Johnson (59 catches, 1,092 yards, 10 TDs) became the first county player since 2008 to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards. St. Cloud Colt Smith passed for 1,890 yards, second all-time at the school since White’s big year. He tossed 23 touchdown passes, one fewer than White in 2008, and had a pair of top targets in Seth Johnson (54 catches, 774 yards, 7 TDs) and Johnny Fritz (44-758-10).

Harmony quarterback Nate Herstich set a new Longhorns season record for passing yards (2,361) and an Osceola County record for touchdown passes (30).

Herstich threw 30 touchdown passes, including three or more in eight straight games, good for a new county record. Despite only having 32 receptions, Lane Hickey caught 15 of them, a new Harmony record, catching one in eight straight games.

Harmony Coach Don Simon, who brought an up-tempo style of offense with him from prior stops in South Florida and North Carolina, said it fit the athleticism and abilities of Herstich, Hickey and the rest of his offensive players.

“We adjusted the scheme to them. Going fast is more for the kids to learn at first, but going fast looks different to a defense,” he said, noting the idea behind up-tempo offense is getting more snaps. “I knew if we got to 58 to 60 snaps we’d win most games (against St. Cloud, a 35-33 win, for example, the Longhorns ran 57 plays).

“We put up a lot of points down the stretch. We settled into what we learned we do best,” said Simon, whose team put up 99 points in its final two games, including a 67-42 loss to Bradenton Southeast last week that got ugly when tailback Latrell Peavy ran for 401 yards and scored six of Southeast’s 10 touchdowns.

Simon said Herstich picked up the system of quick reads at the line of scrimmage pretty well early in the season — then started running it really well late in the year.

“He started seeing things like I saw them, which was a big help in adding more to the offense,” he said. “The kid has a football mind, and he’s just a junior, so stay tuned for what we can do next year.”

Simon said it was “fun” to watch Herstich and Hickey work together on offense this season.

“Lane is the prototypical move-the-chains, possession receiver,” the coach said. “He’s the only receiver that graduates.”

Longhorn junior receivers Caleb Bass (46 catches, 798 yards, 11 TDs), Josh Hall (18-353-2) and Garrett Simon (14-224) should return, but Simon will have to replace four graduating linemen.

“Our O-line played very well this year, and gave Nate time to sit back and look things over,” he said. “We’ve got young guys in the system who will be able to pick this up.”