Coach: Mike Garofano (second season, 11-2)
Last season: 11-2
Colors: Blue, red and white
Stadium: Booster Stadium, 3300 Mariner Blvd., Spring Hill
Playoff history: 1993, 1996, 2004, 2005, 2010, 2012, 2013
Last appearance: Beat Citrus 21-6; beat Gainesville 27-7; lost 41-0 to Armwood.
Aug. 29 vs. Citrus, 7:30
Sept. 5 vs. Weeki Wachee, 7:30
Sept. 12 vs. Nature Coast, 7:30
Sept. 19 at Sunlake, 7:30
Sept. 26 at Berkeley Prep, 7:30
Oct. 3 vs. Fivay, 7:30
Oct. 10 at Central, 7:30
Oct. 24 at Mitchell, 7:30
Oct. 31 vs. Land O’Lakes, 7:30
Nov. 7 at Hernando, 7:30
Mark your calendar
Springstead at Hernando, Nov. 7: Say what you will about district games, but the longest rivalry in Hernando County history got an extra boost when Springstead alum and longtime Eagles coach Bill Vonada took the Hernando head coaching position after last season. With Mike Garofano, Vonada’s longtime defensive coordinator, coming off the best season in school history with Springstead, it will be student vs. mentor for the first time when the programs square off at Tom Fisher Stadium in the last week of the regular season.
Big shoes to fill: Springstead enters this season with the task of replacing Tyler Mahla, who started each of the past three seasons at quarterback. Mahla set a school record for career touchdowns (32) and another one for a single season with 18 last year. He was also fourth on the North Suncoast with 1,176 yards rushing and 776 yards passing along with six touchdowns through the air. First-year varsity starter Victor Koerick will have his hands full living up to his predecessor.
Steady as it goes: The most consistent part of the Springstead team over the past decade has been its defense. Led by Garofano, the unit defends run and pass equally well, as playoff opponents Citrus and Gainesville found out last fall. Four players (Conor Ross, Juan Espinosa, Robert Holdway and Jesse Cowan) reached the 100-tackle plateau. Only Cowan graduated from that group, but Espinosa has not rebounded from injury and is unlikely to suit up this season.
Opening it up: Offensive coordinator Dustin Kupcik, who was rumored for a few head coaching positions this offseason, added some dimensions to the play-calling last season that Springstead fans weren’t used to. Throwing the ball a little more and taking more risks than the team had done under Vonada, Springstead kept opposing defenses on their toes. With another full season to expound upon his scheme, expect some new wrinkles.
Tough encore: So many milestones were reached by Springstead last season that it will be difficult to reach or surpass expectations in 2014. Two of the four postseason wins in the school’s 38-year history came in 2013, including both of its home playoff victories. The Eagles set school records for wins (11) on the way to their first back-to-back district titles.
FB Daniel Wright, Sr.: Coming in at No. 89 on the HomeTeam 100 this summer, Wright has scored 21 touchdowns over the past two seasons while rushing for 1,140 yards. He set the school record with 230 yards against Weeki Wachee early in the season, and dealing with injuries throughout the postseason, still rushed for 159 yards and two touchdowns. Known for his bruising style, the senior put on more muscle this offseason and could be in line for a career year.
LB Conor Ross, Sr.: A four-year defensive starter, Ross put up 114 tackles and six sacks, both team highs, despite tearing his ACL right before the playoffs. With 268 tackles and 13 sacks in his career, another superb campaign could cement the senior’s legacy as one of the best defensive players in school history.
LB/RB Robert Holdway, Sr.: Another linebacker who accrued 100 tackles in 2013, Holdway is one of the more vocal leaders on the Springstead roster. His football IQ allows him to be in position to make plays that others can’t, and helps make the linebacking corps one of the best on the North Suncoast.
OL Hunter Hramika, Jr.: With the graduation of tight end Tyler Anderson and linemen Mike Miara and Jameson Peppe, Hramika steps to the forefront of what has been Springstead’s offensive strength for years. Starting at left tackle, Hramika returns to anchor a new line with center Austin Hampton and left guard James Kern also is back. Joining him will be Dominic Lamagno and Donovan Giles to fill out the group.
QB Victor Koerick, Jr.: The left-handed signal caller showed coaches a great deal during spring practice, then during the spring game against Anclote. Butterflies had to be present when he had three early turnovers (two fumbles, one interception) in the 31-7 win, but he rebounded to lead the offense to 31 unanswered points.
RB Dominique Walker, So.: A transfer from Nature Coast, Walker played junior varsity last season. Springstead coaches are impressed by his speed and acceleration. “Once he gets his shoulders turned, he is really moving,” Garofano said. His work ethic is also amazing, and he’s penciled in as the starter at tailback behind Wright.
LB Jake Lewandowski, Jr.: Although he was on the varsity roster for much of last season, Lewandowski saw almost no time on defense, playing primarily special teams. He will now be the fourth linebacker in Springstead’s 3-4 scheme next to McLeod, Holdway and Ross. The junior’s playmaking ability has already shined in practice.
RB Randy Morgan, Fr.: Springstead isn’t known for explosive athletes, but this newcomer from Explorer K-8 School in Spring Hill is the exception. It looks like Morgan will begin the season on varsity immediately and should see time in the backfield backing up Walker. He has game-breaking type speed, according to coaches.
“We have a nice little mix of youth infused with our veterans. The freshman class from last year, who are now sophomores, is the best we’ve had in a long time. We have them for three more years. We have 95 kids in our program altogether now. I never remember this many kids. The program is flourishing to the point where I want us to be a perennial powerhouse. Every year we’re written off because of the guys we lost, but we think we are turning the corner to the point where there are no more rebuilding years for this program. It’s all about the next man up.” — Garofano