HOLIDAY — As the final minutes wound down, visiting fans began chanting, “Na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye.” The clock ran out Friday, and the song gave way to raucous cheering.
Tarpon Springs defeated Anclote 31-0 in a 5A region quarterfinal, shutting down the Sharks’ ground attack as they did in their preseason matchup. The Spongers face Lakewood in the next round.
“It’s the way we’ve played games all year,” Spongers coach Ron Hawn said.
Hawn said his team typically controls the ball and creates turnovers. Though the Spongers didn’t force any turnovers Friday, they held the Sharks to 45 rushing yards on 30 carries.
The teams seemed evenly matched going in. Both were notorious for their rushing attack and tight defensive lines, and neither was known for throwing the ball.
The loss was an echo of the Spongers’ dominance over Anclote in the preseason, when Tarpon Springs won 28-3. The Spongers’ stifled the Sharks’ running game in that matchup, holding them to minus-13 yards.
The game started slowly for both teams. With 1:20 remaining in the first quarter, Louis Zervos kicked a 31-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
Tarpon’s offense heated up in the second quarter. On the Spongers’ first play Michael Ford ran 42 yards to the Sharks’ 15. He raced in for the score on the next play.
Anclote gained just 8 yards on its next possession, and Tim Shumate’s punt went only 17 yards.
Tarpon Springs seemed ready to give the ball right back, facing third and 15. But Jarrett Battyanyi found Montel Johnson for a 37-yard touchdown.
With a few minutes remaining in the quarter, the Spongers weren’t done. Anclote fumbled a punt and Tarpon Springs recovered. On the next play, Johnson rushed 33 yards for another score.
Despite the preseason result, Anclote won its final five games of the regular season and earned the 5A-7 title.
A field-goal attempt went wide to end Tarpon Springs’ first possession of the second half. Both sides held in the third quarter, and neither came close to the end zone.
The Spongers just needed to hold off the Sharks for the final quarter, but they added a touchdown on their first play. Battyanyi went in from 5 yards out to score.
The Sharks turned the ball over on downs 2 yards from the end zone on their next possession. The Spongers went 57 yards on the next drive before they let the clock run down.