TARPON SPRINGS — Last week, Tarpon Springs fell victim to a furious second-half comeback and lost by four to Northeast.
Friday, in a crucial district matchup again Lakewood Ranch, the Spongers almost produced a late rally of their own.
Tarpon Springs, which trailed by 21 with less than five minutes remaining, scored two quick touchdowns to get within seven but couldn't complete the comeback in a 41-34 loss.
"We've got some growing up to do," Tarpon Springs coach Ron Hawn said. "We're struggling. That's a game that we should have won. Last week was a game that we should have won."
After a 55-minute lightning delay during halftime, Lakewood Ranch (4-2, 2-0) grabbed momentum and a big lead early in the third quarter. The Mustangs ran the ball on seven straight plays after the break, taking a 27-14 lead on Chris Pearcey's 13-yard touchdown run off right tackle.
After a Spongers three-and-out, Lakewood Ranch pushed the lead to 34-14 on a well-thrown, 60-yard play action pass from Chad Rex to Ty Mcleod.
Tarpon Springs (3-3, 1-1) climbed back with a 6-yard touchdown run from Kenyatta Merriex with 8:31 left. That score was set up by an 85-yard carry from Michael Ford (11 carries, 135 yards).
The Mustangs, though, answered immediately, going 48 yards in eight plays after a failed Spongers onside kick. Pearcey's 14-yard run gave Lakewood Ranch a 41-20 advantage.
Merriex hit Allen Wilson for a 31-yard touchdown on a double reverse flea flicker to cut the score to 41-27 with 4:07 remaining. The Spongers recovered the onside kick and needed just three plays to score again when Collins rushed for a 17-yard touchdown on a zone-read quarterback keeper.
But that was the last time the Spongers would have the ball. Lakewood Ranch recovered the Spongers' third onside kick of the game and ran out the clock.
Tarpon Springs showed off a punishing ground attack on the opening drive, running the ball on six of its first seven plays and going ahead 7-0 on a 5-yard run from Ford.