TARPON SPRINGS — As with any battle between two very good teams, Thursday's night's Countryside-Tarpon Springs game came down to a few crucial fourth-quarter plays.
On this occasion all of them went in the Cougars' favor.
Trailing by three entering the fourth quarter, Countryside was clutch on both sides of the ball when it counted and rallied with two touchdowns to shock the Spongers 21-10.
"That was a good win tonight," Cougars coach John Davis said.
Tarpon Springs (5-2) might not have had much of a lead entering the final quarter but the Spongers seemingly had all the momentum.
Twice in the third quarter they drove well into Countryside territory, but one drive ended with a missed field goal and another was thwarted by a sack. Despite those missed scoring chances, Tarpon had to feel good because its defense was doing so well.
But early in the fourth, Countryside's offense, which had been stagnant most of the night, finally got rolling. A 37-yard pass from Jimbo Chmelik to Brenton Conley put the Cougars (6-1) in scoring position. Three plays later Conley found the end zone on a 5-yard run to give Countryside its first lead of the half with 8:37 left.
On the Spongers' next drive, a key holding penalty backed them up. Then Tarpon gambled by trying to convert on fourth and 9 from its own 43. Suffice to say the move backfired.
A pass in the flat was intercepted by Terrance Chambers, who returned it to the Tarpon 29 with 5:33 remaining. It was one of five Tarpon Springs turnovers.
"The QB rolled out, I stepped in and came up with the ball," Chambers said.
On second down for Countryside following the turnover, tailback Alton Taylor (21 carries, 112 yards) took a handoff from Chmelik, ran through a gaping hole up the middle and scored a back-breaking touchdown.
"We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot," Spongers coach George Kotis said. "Against a good football team, you can't do that."
Tarpon Springs was led offensively by running back Adrian Golden (12 carries, 94 yards) and Darius Daniels (16 carries, 75 yards). Quarterback Wyatt Wikle threw for 126 yards and a second-quarter touchdown to Luther Shaw, but was intercepted three times.
Keith Niebuhr can be reached at email@example.com.