Fri. November 1, 2013 |
LAND O’LAKES — A very Springstead-like first half had the Eagles looking well on their way to a district championship, then adversity hit. But in the end it was no big deal.
Latavious Hannah’s third-quarter interception squashed Land O’Lakes’ comeback hopes as Springstead won 34-21 to wrap up the Class 6A, District 6 title. Despite a great overall record, the Gators (7-2) are eliminated from postseason contention, with Sunlake taking the district’s runnerup spot.
Daniel Wright ran for 170 yards and three touchdowns to lead Springstead (8-1, 4-0). Two of his scores came as the Eagles built a 21-7 halftime lead.
“We did what we had to do,” said Wright, namely run the ball and play sound defense. Springstead ended up with 54 carries for 271 yards while only throwing it three times.
James Pensyl, meanwhile, was 23-of-39 for 298 yards for the Gators. But most of that came between the 20-yard lines. The Gators twice stalled inside the 10, and a third long drive ended with a blocked field goal.
Momentum swings marked the third quarter. Just after the Gators had marched down to the 1-yard line and came up empty — thanks to a big tackle by Conor Ross — Springstead gave the Gators hope on a fumble recovered by Mike Studenberg. Pensyl’s 22-yard touchdown pass to Ethan Weilant with 7:18 to play in the third quarter pulled the hosts within 21-14.
Springstead fumbled again with Shaheed Salmon recovering, then Hannah caught a pass off a receiver’s fingertips and took it 37 yards down to the LOL 33. It was on third and 9 at the 15 that Mahla connected with Tyler Anderson down to the 1. Mahla’s sneak put the Eagles up 28-14.
“We ran the ball so much that it set that play up pretty well,” said Mahla, who went a tidy 3-for-3 for 24 yards to go with 40 yards on the ground.
The Eagles put things away when Nathan Kocolowski recovered a fumble on the first play of the fourth quarter, followed soon by Wright’s third touchdown of the game from 4 yards.
The Gators fourth turnover on the ensuing kickoff pretty much ended their hopes, though Pensyl would run for a TD at the 4:21 mark. Land O’Lakes recovered the onside kick but turned it over on downs at the Springstead 8.
Though Springstead had less pressure as a loss would have still given it a chance via a three-team tiebreaker, Hannah said that wasn’t the route the Eagles were interested in taking.
“Oh no, we weren’t doing that. We wanted to do our thing and get out of here with a win,” he said.
Pensyl added 101 yards rushing as the Gators outgained the Eagles by more than 100. Weilant caught seven passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns, and Larenz Scroggins added five receptions. Shane Wiggins had a blocked field goal and pass deflection for Springstead.