Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Football: No keeping Springstead's Wright down in game-breaking performance

Teammates pile on Eagles running back  Daniel Wright after his late touchdown secured the win over Gainesville.

CHRIS PRICE | Special to the Times

Teammates pile on Eagles running back Daniel Wright after his late touchdown secured the win over Gainesville.

SPRING HILL — As the game got underway Friday night at Booster Stadium between Springstead and Gainesville, the thoughts of what happened exactly one week prior plagued Daniel Wright.

The Eagles running back received a helmet to the knee in the first half against Citrus, and was carried off the field and put into an ambulance.

"There was so much running through my head (when I was laying on the field)," he said. "I was a little worried, but when they told me everything was fine, I iced it every day. There was no way I wasn't playing (Friday night)."

No one could have foreseen the performance he would have in Springstead's first region semifinal victory in school history. With 27 carries for 159 yards, a 22-yard catch, and two touchdowns, Wright found himself as the centerpiece of the Eagle offense in the biggest game the program has ever played.

"(His performance) was a huge lift for us," coach Mike Garofano said. "(He's) the focal point of our offense. We're 13 weeks in, and he takes a beating every week."

Last weekend was difficult for the senior. After consulting with doctors and finding out there was no structural damage to the knee, Wright still had to deal with extreme swelling and the lack of flexibility that came with it.

Coaches held him out of practice Monday, and because Thursday is more of a walk-through day, his only full day of practice came Wednesday. Offensive coordinator Dustin Kupcik had to give reps to a flurry of other players in the backfield as a contingency.

"As soon as I saw the hit with the reaction from the medical crew, I had to assume he was done and we were looking at the next man up," Kupcik said. "We took it slow and steady (in practice), and after that, I was not concerned about how he'd play."

On Springstead's opening drive, he ran over would-be tacklers on his way to a season-long 57-yard carry, setting up the Eagles' first touchdown, a 20-yard pass from Tyler Mahla to Joe Jeffords.

"(Wright's long run) lifted his confidence and the team's," Garofano said. "The offensive line did a great job of executing and (Kupcik) handled the play-calling very well."

Everything built from there as he broke tackle after tackle. With the score only 14-7 on fourth and 16 just outside of the red zone, Wright caught the 22-yard touchdown from Mahla to seal the win.

At only 165 pounds, Wright's persona as the type of back who gains 5 yards and a cloud of dust wasn't immediate. It was the influence of former Springstead coach Bill Vonada that taught him to keep his feet moving and run through people instead always trying to cut.

"I was very elusive when I played pee-wee league," said Wright, who has 1,103 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns. \

"But the one who taught me about running hard was Vonada. I love running through a guy and hearing the crowd's 'oohs' and 'ahhs' because it gets me pumped up."

Football: No keeping Springstead's Wright down in game-breaking performance 11/22/13 [Last modified: Friday, November 22, 2013 11:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays have their chances, but end up with another loss (w/video)

    The Heater

    TORONTO — The litany of games the Rays have given away this season is long enough, arguably too lengthy. So the only way to get to the postseason is make up for some of those losses by grabbing some wins when the opportunity is presented, especially at this time of year when the margin is diminished and the stakes …

    Associated Press
  2. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Wednesday's Rays-Blue Jays game

    The Heater

    You wonder if the scouting reports and/or workload are catching up to rookie RHP Jake Faria. The bottom line wasn't bad again, three runs in 51/3 innings, but he's having to work harder to get there.

  3. Rays journal: Chris Archer eager for eventful final stretch

    The Heater

    TORONTO — RHP Chris Archer takes the mound today for the Rays as they head into the final 40 games of the season with little margin for error as they battle for an American League playoff spot.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) takes a moment on the mound in the second inning of the game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, August 6, 2017.
  4. Tim Tebow's slump continues, as does fan support


    CLEARWATER — On July 29, playing against the Charlotte Stone Crabs, Tim Tebow smacked a mammoth three-run homer, helping the St. Lucie Mets cruise to a 10-3 victory at Charlotte Sports Park.

    St. Lucie’s Tim Tebow, shown Monday at Spectrum Field, struggled at the plate Wednesday against the Threshers.
  5. Rays at Blue Jays, 4:07 p.m. Thursday

    The Heater

    Today: at Blue Jays

    4:07, Rogers Centre, Toronto

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun, 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Rays info: Toll-free 1-888-326-7297

    Probable pitchers

    Rays: RH Chris Archer (8-7, 3.84)

    JAYS: RH Chris Rowley (1-0, 1.69)