SPRING HILL — Intimidation tactics and aggressive play up to and sometimes after the whistle did not ruffle Springstead this time around.
Citrus, the lone team to solve the Eagles this season, failed to get into the Eagles’ heads in Friday’s Class 6A region quarterfinal , and the home team pulled off a historic 21-6 win.
The Eagles (10-1) set many precedents on the Booster Stadium turf with the victory, starting with stopping an 0-4 streak at home in the postseason . The program also reached 10 victories for the first time in the school’s 38-year history.
“Our seniors want to make history,” first-year Springstead coach Mike Garofano said. “They made history with back-to-back district titles, and they made history tonight by winning their 10th game and getting the first home playoff win.”
A slick, muddy field had both teams struggling to maneuver inside the hash marks, but Springstead quarterback Tyler Mahla became a playmaker in his third trip to the playoffs. While milking 11 minutes off the clock in two first-quarter drives, Mahla ran for one touchdown on a keeper and a second touchdown to start the second quarter on a scramble to put his team up 14-0 .
“We just kept the chains moving,” Garofano said. “Defensively, we were over there resting, and it really set the tone for the game.”
After falling to Citrus (9-2) in the season opener 42-14, the fast start was a welcome change. Meanwhile, the Springstead defense that allowed 26 points in one quarter to the Hurricanes in Week 1 stood strong.
“The first week of the season they were doing some eye gauging and some dirty stuff,” Garofano said. “Our guys do a good job of keeping it cool.”
Citrus gained only 137 yards from scrimmage, with most of the damage coming in the second half. The only score from the
Hurricanes came on an 81-yard kick return by James Pouncey. Josh Marsden, who had made 27-of-33 extra-point attempts coming in, missed wide left.
Mahla proved his poise as the first half was coming to a close. After another solid drive, Springstead was setting up to attempt a 32-yard field goal with only 12 seconds left. An encroachment penalty moved the ball 5 yards closer so Garofano allowed Mahla to make one last attempt at a score. The senior answered with a 10-yard pass to Joe Jeffords.
That would be all the elite defense for the Eagles would need as the second half became a scoreless exchange. Citrus quarterback Deion Moore (5-of-14, 37 yards, 12 carries, 46 yards) attempted to throw downfield, but numerous pass deflections from the defense made his night difficult.
Sam Franklin, the Hurricanes’ leading receiver, was ejected early for punching Springstead receiver Brandon Geiger. Eagles running back Daniel Wright was carried off the field and went to a hospital with a knee injury after a tough play, and linebacker Jordan Rivera was also banged up at the end of the first half but returned to make a key deflection late.
“They came in here running their mouths, cursing and hooting and hollering,” Garofano said. “That’s not our style. We let our pads do the talking.”