Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Nease Pair Shakes Up Opponents' Offenses; Safeties MacNaught and Bates Make Big Plays in the Team's Biggest Games

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Nease Pair Shakes Up Opponents' Offenses; Safeties MacNaught and Bates Make Big Plays in the Team's Biggest Games

Article excerpt

Byline: STUART KORFHAGE

Nease safeties Jared MacNaught and Hunter Bates are nightmares on opponents' scouting reports -- recurring ones.

For the third consecutive season -- and deep into the third consecutive postseason -- the Panthers seniors are making things difficult for every type of offense thrown at them.

And if that isn't annoying enough, the two might beat you on special teams or maybe even offense.

"I have complete trust in those guys," Nease coach Craig Howard said. "They're a coach's dream. They inspire you as a coach to give it your best effort because they're giving their best effort."

It's an effort that often sways games in favor of Nease, especially in the playoffs or other big games. Last week against Lake City Columbia in the Class 4A regional semifinals, MacNaught had a sack, an interception and 14 tackles, including a team-high three for a loss. He helped keep standout running back Tiger Powell in check, limiting him to 63 yards.

Bates was also a big part of that success, putting a hit on Powell in the third quarter that left him limping off the field. Powell didn't have another carry the rest of the game. Bates also completed a two-point conversion pass to Brett Russi in the fourth quarter.

In the playoff opener against Gainesville Eastside, Bates made an even larger impact. He picked off two passes, ran a punt back for a touchdown and even ran 6 yards for a first down on a fake punt.

"It's just fun being able to help the team any way I can," Bates said.

Bates and MacNaught are key members of Nease's "superpower" offense, a tight formation usually used in short-yardage situations. They ran it a lot in the St. Augustine game when quarterback Ted Stachitas was limited with a knee injury. It was also in that game that MacNaught scored the game-winning touchdown on a fumble recovery and 62-yard return. "Everything in [this defense] is based on when it's your turn to make a play, you make it," MacNaught said. …

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