TARPON SPRINGS — Northeast coach Mike Jalazo figured it couldn’t get any worse. The Vikings’ bus got caught in traffic and arrived more than 30 minutes late for their game at Tarpon Springs.
And once the game started, his team did almost nothing right. The Spongers gashed his defense and led by 24 points at halftime. Jalazo implored his team to not give up, to at least make things respectable.
It did more than that.
Thanks to two turnovers and the quarterback/receiver combination of Ryan Davis and Keith Harrington, the Vikings came all the way back to defeat Tarpon 41-37. The Vikings (5-0) outscored the Spongers 34-6 in the second half to stay perfect.
“We were just so flat in the first half,” Jalazo said. “We got here late, and it was like everything was thrown off. I told them at halftime just win the second half. Get some early turnovers, score some touchdowns and let’s see what happens.”
Tarpon (3-2) built a lead behind the power running of Michael Ford (250 yards on 31 carries), Kenyatta Merriex and Zach Gibb and passing of Dalton Collins. Gibb had a 27-yard touchdown run, Merriex a 1-yarder, Ford a 4-yarder and Collins a 26-yard pass to Allen Wilson.
But things changed quickly in the third. After holding Tarpon on its first possession, Davis hit Harrington for a 46-yard touchdown to cut it to 31-14. The Spongers fumbled, and four plays later, Davis hit Harrington for a 9-yard touchdown.
An interception by TJ Booth gave Northeast the ball again, which Davis quickly turned into a 20-yard touchdown pass to Darius Lacy. The extra point failed, but it cut the lead to 31-27.
After a Spongers field goal, Davis hit Harrington yet again, this time on a 45-yard touchdown. The extra point failed, leaving the Vikings down 34-33.
Louis Zervos kicked another field goal to make it 37-33 with five minutes left. But on the first play of the ensuing drive, Davis hooked up with Donterio Fowler on a 78-yard touchdown. Harrington ran in a botched extra point for two points.
“Coach told us to never give up,” Davis said. “If we win the second half, we could win the game. All our playmakers stepped up, but I think our defense was the key. They gave us a chance.”
Davis threw for 343 yards and six touchdown. Harrington caught six passes for 170 yards and four touchdowns.
“This is going to turn out being one of the greatest games I’ve ever played in,” Harrington said. “I’ll remember this forever. This is their homecoming, and we were able to go home with the win.”