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WESLEY CHAPEL — Before Friday’s 40-8 Class 4A region quarterfinal victory over Wiregrass Ranch, Springstead had two go-to players on offense — quarterback Brian Beeker and running back Devean Huff.
And rightfully so.
The two combined for 1,775 yards on the ground during the regular season, but Springstead coach Bill Vonada felt an extra ingredient had to be added to the Eagles’ option attack during their two-week layoff before facing the Bulls.
And that missing piece? Well, that would be a player who had carried the ball only 12 times for 30 yards, with six others ahead of him statistically — junior Jeremy Junod.
“How prototypical is Jeremy to our backfield?” Vonada said. “I think we have a cutoff point. You can’t be above a certain height or something. (Junod) is a smart kid who just works hard and keeps his mouth closed.”
And by prototypical he practically means identical, with Huff standing at 5-foot-4 and Junod at 5-5 and both weighing in around 145 pounds.
Junod’s 15-carry, two-touchdown, 80-yard performance on Friday night stunned many, but not Beeker.
“(Junod) is a special kid,” Beeker said. “He played a great game (Friday) and I knew he would play well. The offensive line did a great job and all the backs made great reads.”
What really made Junod’s breakout more incredible was his workload increase. His biggest game prior to the playoffs was a five-carry, 21 yard-performance in a 42-7 victory over Central on Nov. 5.
Slowly, Vonada worked the running back into the Eagles’ game plan during the two weeks before the Wiregrass Ranch game, and now it’s paying dividends with a trip to Gainesville on Friday.
“It’s unbelievable,” Junod said of his increased role. “I had such a great line blocking for me. I mean, anyone could have ran behind those holes. I’m just happy it was me.
“When Coach told me I was going to be playing more vs. Wiregrass, I knew I had to step up.”
The relief to Huff and Beeker with Junod now in the backfield should cause problems for the Purple Hurricanes (9-2), who narrowly defeated the Eagles 17-7 on Oct. 29. Huff ran the ball 38 times for 145 yards in the loss and Beeker left the game early with an injury to his throwing shoulder.
The Eagles (6-5) appear to be at full strength offensively and maybe the second time around can get the best of the Hurricanes.
“Well, I don’t think we’re going to catch them by surprise this time,” Vonada said. “(Gainesville) is such a talented team. It seems like every week the other team trots more athletes off the bus, but our kids find a way to step up and perform the best they can.
“We’re going to concentrate on the kids we have here and let the chips fall to where they may.”