ST. PETERSBURG — On Friday night, Michael Ford embodied what Tarpon Springs High football is all about.
The Spongers junior had 33 carries for 143 yards and a pair of touchdowns, slowly grinding out a 26-18 win over host Gibbs in a Class 5A, District 8 matchup.
"He's a bowling ball with dreadlocks," Tarpons Springs coach Ron Hawn said.
No play resembled that more than a carry early in the fourth quarter when Ford bounced off several Gladiators defenders during a 22-yard touchdown run.
The win was far from easy for Tarpon Springs (4-2), though.
After Tarpon Spring's Louis Zervos kicked a 24-yard field goal to start the scoring, Gibbs (1-5) responded with a 77-yard touchdown pass from Brevett Killett to Jacquez President. Then, after a 1-yard run from Patrick Miller gave the lead back to the Spongers in the second quarter, the Gladiators responded 22 seconds later with a 65-yard rushing touchdown from Tyron Lansom to make it 12-9.
But the second half belonged to Tarpon Springs from the start after the Spongers recovered an onside kick. Later in the drive on third and 27, Brandon Casler found Mitchell Wilcox for 32 yards to convert, setting up Ford's first score, a 3-yard touchdown run.
"There was no denying us, I guess," Hawn said. "That was a gut-check moment and the kind of season we've had."
Greg Zeck, Times correspondent