BROOKSVILLE — With a grin that stretched ear-to-ear, longtime Springstead coach Bill Vonada gave the game ball for Friday night’s victory over defending Class 6A, District 6 champion Hernando to the entire Eagles roster.
The 28-7 win at Tom Fisher Stadium gave Springstead its best record to start a season in the school’s 36-year history and kept the team at the top of the district standings.
“To get where we are, it took a concerted effort by every player on our team,” Vonada said. “This was a game of attrition, and we’ve been preparing for it since last season.”
The Eagles (8-0, 5-0) stuck to the same mantra that has given the program success for the past 15 years, defense and fundamentals.
With no turnovers for the first 31/2 quarters of play, Springstead won that battle handily, forcing five (two interceptions, three fumbles) .
In addition, the Eagles defensive front was tenacious , consistently in the Hernando backfield. Travis O’Neil, Robert Holdway, Luke McLeod, and Conor Ross recorded sacks, while Ross (two), McLeod (two), Joe Predoehl (two), and Shane Wiggins combined for seven other tackles for a loss.
“There’s not a word for the heart and fight that we put into this,” Springstead captain McLeod said. “Vonada and the rest of the coaching staff are like second fathers to us. That’s why we’re such a close-knit family.”
The tale of this contest is similar to the rest of the Eagles’ wins. Defense and special teams found pay dirt as well as the offense. Pedro Estrada accounted for one touchdown with his 80-yard interception return of Hernando quarterback Ra’shaad Hart. Predoehl later added an interception of Tyrail Hawkins. Ricky Toth blocked Hart’s punt at the Hernando 38 and recovered it at 11 before bringing it back for a score.
The ball control, option attack managed by Springstead quarterback Tyler Mahla (4-of-8, 41 yards, 12 carries, 36 yards, one touchdown) held off the Leopards (4-4, 4-1) for much of the game. Mahla did just enough to help his unit score twice with Daniel
Wright rushing for 91 yards on 18 carries and one touchdown.
One high note for Hernando was the ability of Jeremiah Jackson. The team’s leading tackler had 244 yards coming in on the ground, but carried 13 times for 109 yards and a touchdown.