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GAINESVILLE — Springstead senior running back Devean Huff stared blankly at the scoreboard, dropped to his knee and buried his face in his hands.
Senior quarterback Brian Beeker stood with his hands on his hips, replaying each of his team’s missed opportunities over and over in his head.
Springstead knew it would take a mistake-free effort Friday to upend Gainesville in a region semifinal at Citizen’s Field.
At times, the Eagles appeared on the verge of breaking through and continuing their late-season surge. Costly miscues, however, were ultimately Springstead’s undoing in a 30-7 season-ending defeat.
The Eagles’ offense had four turnovers (three fumbles, one interception) and their defense couldn’t stop the pass-happy Purple Hurricanes attack led by senior quarterback Ryan McGriff, who threw for three touchdown passes and 200 yards. Gainesville outgained the Eagles 424 yards to 197 and limited Springstead to 91 rushing yards on 33 carries.
“In the Florida high school playoffs, there’s only one team in each classification that’s going to go home happy,” Springstead coach Bill Vonada said. “… We have such a tight-knit group of guys. Hopefully, they realize that the season ends but the relationships don’t.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Gainesville (10-2) took advantage of the game’s first major break when Springstead muffed a punt at its 42-yard line. Gainesville moved into the red zone but had to settle for a 37-yard field from Dallas Stubbs after Luke McLeod sacked McGriff on third down.
Gainesville made it 10-0 three minutes later after prime field position resulted in a 32-yard touchdown pass from McGriff to Chris Thompson.
The Eagles trailed 10-0 at halftime.
“We weathered the storm for the most part in the first half, but a couple little things here and there hurt us,” Vonada said. “Even defensively, we’d get a little bit of something going and they’d make a play and put us in the hole.”
Springstead (6-6) got the ball first after halftime but immediately handed Gainesville momentum when Huff fumbled on the first play from scrimmage in the second half and the Hurricanes’ Clovis Watson recovered at the Eagles’ 26.
Five plays later, McGriff hit Altwan Williams on a 7-yard pass to make it 17-0 Gainesville.
Springstead forced a turnover near midfield and moved the ball into Gainesville territory but couldn’t convert a fourth-and-7. The Hurricanes took over at their 31 and marched 69 yards in nine plays, capped by Anqauan Gainey’s 13-yard touchdown run.
Gainesville added another late third-quarter touchdown when McGriff found a wide-open Trevarris Saulsberry in the back of the end zone for an 11-yard pass, and the Hurricanes were rolling 30-0.
“Gainesville’s not where they are by accident,” Vonada said. “They’re going to make you pay for mistakes.”
Springstead got on the scoreboard with less than two minutes remaining when Huff carried into the end zone from 1 yard out .
Photo by Aaron Daye, The Gainesville Sun