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Football: Springstead 14, Sunlake 13

SPRING HILL — Springstead coach Mike Garofano was out of breath and incredulous after watching his team's miraculous comeback Friday night.

A goal-line stand. A missed field goal. A two-touchdown rally against a previously impenetrable defense. A gutsy trick play and, finally, Kevin Bedford's winning 10-yard touchdown catch to complete a 14-13 victory over Sunlake.

"I thought I had a heart attack," Garofano said.

But Garofano will take the heartburn for his team's result. His Eagles (3-1, 1-0) sit atop Class 6A, District 6 after giving Sunlake (3-1, 0-1) its first loss of the season.

The Seahawks had four plays inside the Springstead 3 early in the second quarter but couldn't break through, and Robert Holdway stuffed Dayton Feiden's quarterback run to keep the game scoreless.

Sunlake kept pounding the ball and eventually broke through. Nathan Johnson plowed into the end zone for a 5-yard run as part of his 113-yard night, and Chris Wilkinson booted two field goals to put the Seahawks ahead 13-0.

That's when Springstead's offense finally came to life. After amassing only 56 yards in the game's first 33 minutes, the Eagles churned out a nine-play, 70-yard drive late in the third. Daniel Wright flipped into the end zone from 2 yards out to cut the deficit to 13-7. It was the first offensive touchdown Sunlake had allowed all season.

"That's what Springstead does," Bedford said. "We get down the field and we drive, we drive, and we keep on going until we find something."

The Eagles' defense found something, too, in the final quarter.

After a personal foul gave Sunlake the ball at Springstead's 32, the Eagles' front seven held. Sunlake missed a 32-yard field goal, leaving 3:48 on the clock and 80 yards between Springstead and a victory.

"It kinda gave us life," Garofano said.

The Eagles extended it by dialing up a trick play. Quarterback Tyler Mahla flipped the ball back to Joe Jeffords, who launched a 48-yard pass over the middle to Tyler Anderson that took Springstead to the 20.

"Timing's everything on trick plays," Garofano said. "That was a perfectly timed trick play, and the players executed it perfectly."

They had three more big plays to execute.

Mahla inched forward on fourth and 1 with 1:01 left to pick up a crucial first down. On the next play, he hit Bedford on a quick pass over the middle for a 10-yard score, and Tyler Toth drilled the go-ahead extra point.

"It was phenomenal," senior lineman Michael Miara said.

Springstead left 48 seconds on the clock, but Sunlake couldn't answer. The Seahawks slipped in the backfield with two seconds left, kicking off a celebration on Springstead's sidelines and leaving Garofano speechless.

Matt Baker can be reached at mbaker@tampabay.com or on Twitter @MattHomeTeam.

Football: Springstead 14, Sunlake 13 09/20/13 [Last modified: Friday, September 20, 2013 11:28pm]
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