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HOLIDAY — At the end of every defensive play in every practice, Springstead’s entire unit runs to the ball — a pursuit drill designed to kill drives or create turnovers.
And Friday night at Anclote, countless repetitions of flocking to the ball helped the Eagles secure their 28-21 win over Anclote and give Springstead its first 3-0 start since 2004.
“Good things always happen when you fly to the ball,” Eagles linebacker Joe Predoehl said.
Springstead (3-0) had reasons to doubt its defense early. Anclote (0-2) scored on its first drive of the game on a 10-yard fade from quarterback John Forgione to wide receiver Tymere Carter. It was the first score allowed by the Eagles’ defense all season.
Springstead rallied with a 1-yard touchdown run by Daniel Wright, a 30-yard rush by quarterback Tyler Mahla and a 5-yard touchdown pass from Mahla to Nic Pasarela. Two interceptions by Richard Toth helped the Eagles stay ahead.
But Anclote stole momentum heading into halftime when linebacker Dimitri Grivas intercepted Mahla and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown with two seconds left to cut the deficit to 21-14.
On the first drive of the third quarter, Anclote tied the game with a 6-yard touchdown pass from Forgione to Carter.
“We said, 'This isn’t us,’ ” Predoehl said. “ 'What are we doing out here?’ ”
Springstead’s defense returned to its form that dominated wins against Ridgewood and Fivay after that. Anclote mustered only 17 yards on 17 plays after its final touchdown.
And the Eagles made two more key plays to seal the victory.
After pinning Anclote inside its own 20, Predoehl and Shane Wiggins deflected a punt near the goal line. That set up a 9-yard rush by Wright, who finished with 88 yards.
“We did it,” Anclote coach Matt Wicks said. “We just gave it up at the end.”
Wicks’ team had one final drive left. After starting at its own 1, Anclote pushed the ball out to the 38 with three minutes left.
Facing fourth and 2, Forgione fired a screen pass to Keshaun Dampier, who wiggled out of Dylan McLeod’s grasp. But McLeod held Dampier long enough for Predoehl to fly to the ball and knock Dampier back for no gain.
“One mark of a great defense is they make plays when they have to,” Springstead coach Bill Vonada said. “They stop drives when they have to.”
And when it counted Friday night, Predoehl and the Eagles did that.
Matt Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.