ORLANDO — After Tarpon Springs coach George Kotis got a good look at a soggy Edgewater football field shortly before kickoff, he felt as though the Spongers had caught a break.
"We thought we might have an advantage on the wet turf," Kotis said.
By halftime, it was evident how wrong that hunch was.
During an opening 24 minutes that was nothing short of shocking, the Spongers uncharacteristically self-destructed at every turn and in every imaginable way. And as the rain continued to fall, Edgewater poured it on, taking a 34-7 lead into the break and ultimately winning 41-20 Friday in the third round of the Class 4A state football playoffs.
"I've never had a half like that in my life," Kotis said.
Tarpon's laundry list of miscues included:
• After going three and out on the team's first series, a Spongers (10-3) punt barely made it back to the line of scrimmage, was caught and returned 11 yards for a touchdown.
• After recovering a fumble at the Edgewater 3 on the final play of the first quarter, Tarpon lost 2 yards on the next three plays, then missed a 21-yard field-goal attempt when the usually reliable Michael Hill slipped and came up short.
• Following an Eagles (10-3) fumble moments later at the Edgewater 15, Tarpon drove to the 2, then appeared to score. But Darius Daniels' touchdown run was negated by a holding penalty and the Spongers lost a fumble on the next play.
• Late in the first half, a Spongers punt was blocked, leading to an Edgewater field goal.
• In the final half-minute of the second quarter, a Tarpon Springs fumble on an exchange between the quarterback and running back was returned 11 yards for a touchdown.
Technically, Tarpon's season didn't end until about 10 p.m. In reality, it was over at the half
"It seemed like everything was going right for them," Spongers offensive tackle Clay Paino said. "We played hard, but they just outplayed us."
Even without the mistakes, winning would have been difficult. Tarpon's normally potent rushing attack never got on track, partly because of the field's lousy conditions, but largely because of the Eagles' stout run defense.
Realizing Tarpon wasn't much of a threat to pass, Edgewater focused on stopping the run, which it did well except for one play.
Late in the first quarter, with Tarpon Springs already trailing 17-0, senior tailback Adrian Golden squirted free and scored on a 69-yard run to give the Spongers hope.
But as luck would have it, Golden, who was bothered by a hip injury, carried it only twice more.
On the other side of the ball, Tarpon's defense fared a little better though the score might not indicate it. Still, there were breakdowns — costly ones.
Talented Edgewater quarterback Kent Gainous rushed for 126 yards and passed for 84 more while accounting for two touchdowns.
"Even though we lost, we still fought and played with class until the end," Kotis said.