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4A football: Tarpon Springs 35, Gainesville 28

TARPON SPRINGS — Gainesville trailed by only seven and had the ball on the Tarpon Springs 5, but with time winding down, the Purple Hurricanes needed to stop the clock.

So they attempted to spike the ball.

Chaos and confusion ensued.

When everything was settled, officials ruled that Gainesville quarterback Ryan McGriff had fumbled and Tarpon Springs had recovered, drawing elation from the Spongers and an emotional plea from the Purple Hurricanes, who claimed McGriff did in fact spike it.

"He bobbled it," said Spongers linebacker Kostas Vavlas, the player who ended up with the ball.

Two snaps later, it was over, and the Spongers, who once led 28-0, had escaped with an emotional 35-28 win that sends them into the third round of the playoffs for the first time since 1986.

They'll play at Orlando Edgewater next week.

The fact that Gainesville (10-2) was in position at the end to force overtime or even win says a lot about the team's resolve.

In the first quarter alone, Tarpon Springs (10-2) scored a touchdown on a fumble return and another on an interception return.

For a while, everything Gainesville did backfired.

Case in point: On one play, the Purple Hurricanes downed a punt at the Tarpon Springs 1-foot line. On the next, tailback Adrian Golden (21 carries, 225 yards) ran 99 yards for a score, giving the Spongers a seemingly insurmountable four-touchdown lead in the first half.

"I saw the 'Tarpon' (on the goalpost) and knew I had to get to it," Golden said.

But Tarpon Springs couldn't hold its lead.

Behind McGriff, who threw for 315 yards, Gainesville closed to within 28-14 at the break, scored on its opening drive of the second half and tied it at 28 with 3:02 left in the third on McGriff's 5-yard touchdown strike to Troy Campbell.

Tarpon Springs responded by driving 60 yards, keyed by a 41-yard Golden gain, and went ahead for good on Danny Chaisson's 1-yard run late in the third.

The Spongers had two chances to put Gainesville away but came up short on a fourth-down play and later missed wide left on a 50-yard field-goal attempt.

"It was an up-and-down game," Golden said.

On its final drive, Gainesville drove from its 20 to the Tarpon Springs 5 on eight plays. Then, for the Purple Hurricanes, disaster struck.

"I saw an opportunity and jumped on it," Vavlas said.

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4A football: Tarpon Springs 35, Gainesville 28 11/28/09 [Last modified: Saturday, November 28, 2009 12:43am]
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