SEMINOLE — Nine yards was all that stood between Tarpon Springs and a feel-good victory against Osceola, an outcome that would take the edge off the injuries to key defensive members.
After a short run and two incomplete passes, Warriors quarterback Ryan Allan rolled to his left looking to run. But Tarpon Springs defenders chased Allan out of bounds. The fourth-down attempt came up 1 yard short as the Spongers held on 21-17 Friday.
It was sweet redemption for the Spongers (2-0), who had lost their past two meetings against Osceola. Michael Ford rushed for 242 yards for Tarpon Springs, but that last stand was a shining moment for a retooled defensive unit.
"This was big for us, to be able to fight through some injuries and win a game on defense with the game on the line," coach Ron Hawn said.
At first it appeared the Spongers would revert to last season, when the defense allowed 20 points or more in seven straight losses. Osceola (1-1) used its bruising rushing tandem of Jamil Morris and Quadarius Patterson on a 78-yard drive that ended with Patterson's 9-yard touchdown. The extra point was missed.
Tarpon Springs countered with a no-huddle offense, and Ford scored on a 1-yard run. Louis Zervos hit the extra point to give the Spongers a 7-6 lead.
In the second quarter, Jarrett Battyanyi scored on a 4-yard run as Tarpon Springs went up 14-6.
Thanks to a 37-yard run by Patterson, the Warriors capped a drive with Wilan Harvey's 11-yard TD run. Allan ran in the 2-point conversion to tie the game.
Osceola went ahead in the third quarter on a 30-yard field goal by Seth Stephany.
But the Spongers rallied by recovering a fumble on a punt return. On the next play, Ford raced 39 yards for the final score.
"I felt like I would have a good game," Ford said. "It was motivation for me because I felt like I didn't have a good game against Osceola last year."