TARPON SPRINGS — Countryside kept it simple Friday night. The Cougars mixed in short, safe passes with an effective ground game. Most of all, they held on to the football.
By playing keep away, Countryside simply wore down Tarpon Springs in a 35-3 victory.
"We have a lot of talent on offense, it's just a matter of getting the ball to as many people as possible," Cougars coach Jared Davis said. "We did a great job of going on some long drives."
The popular term is power football, churning and grinding for long drives and mixing the right dose of passes — short and deep — to keep the defense off balance.
Of course, if you keep the ball, you need to do something with it. That was exactly what Countryside (5-1, 2-0) did. After Steven Czop recovered a fumble on a sack, the Cougars converted the turnover into points, scoring on a 2-yard run by Dante Satcher to go ahead 7-0.
Countryside scored again on its next possession as Michael Johnson ran 44 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-0. Johnson's score capped a seven-play, 90-yard drive.
The Cougars could have broken the game open, but turned the ball over twice inside Tarpon Springs' 20-yard line in the second quarter. The Spongers' Michael Turner had both, recovering a fumble and intercepting a pass in the end zone.
Tarpon Springs' only score in the first half came on a 35-yard field goal by Louis Zervos that was set up by a 59-yard run by Jarrett Battyanyi.
Ahead 14-3, the Cougars took control by starting the third quarter on a 16-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard run by Satcher. That was followed by a 48-yard pass from Trent Chmelik to Zach Laurinaitis on Countryside's next possession that made it 28-3.
In the fourth quarter, the Cougars rounded out the scoring with Satcher's third touchdown on a 4-yard run.
"This was very big (to win)," said Satcher, who finished with 71 yards rushing. "We were just trying to make a statement and show we're still a top contender."
Countryside was balanced with 28 passing plays and 38 rushing. Quarterbacks Robby Hicks and Chmelik combined to hit seven different receivers. And the Cougars were effective in ball control, running 26 more plays than Tarpon Springs (33-7) in the second half.
The Cougars defense did the rest, recovering a fumble and stopping Tarpon Springs on downs to end the game.
"It was a good win for us, but we still have to improve, especially with some big district games still ahead," Davis said. "But I'm pleased where we're headed."