LAND O'LAKES — At times, Alex Spock has wanted to kiss this turf. At others, he wanted to grab with both fists and rip it from the ground.
There was a night to savor last fall when the soccer goalie turned forward scored two goals in five minutes in his first career offensive game. Then there was the devastating one-goal loss to Freedom in January on a ball that got away from him, ending what was shaping up to be the Gators' best seasons in school history. Spock had to fight back tears.
Then there was Friday's smile on the sideline.
In a strong defensive effort by both sides, it was Spock the kicker who helped secure an 11-3 win over Zephyrhills.
Spock was about to punt from his 29-yard line late in the fourth when the snap sailed over his head, bouncing and rolling inside the 10. Spock had practiced running toward the sideline with the ball and punting it, so he picked up the ball with that in mind.
"When I was running back I took a glance over my left shoulder to see if anyone was there," Spock said. "I saw one kid on the Bulldogs coming in. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to pick it up and make it past him to be able to kick it. As soon as I picked it up I felt his hand go across my body."
Spock booted the ball to the Bulldogs' 49, then picked up a roughing the passer penalty which gave the Gators a first down at the Zephyrhills 46. Eight plays later, Spock booted a 47-yard field goal for a personal record, 1 yard better than one he made last season.
Land O'Lakes (2-1) broke through in the first quarter thanks to a 48-yard run by Tyler Peak. A muffed snap on the extra-point attempt was picked up by Ben Hipps, which he ran into the end zone for an 8-0 lead. Otherwise, both defenses clamped down. The Gators had 199 yards of offense and the Bulldogs (0-3) 190.
Bulldogs quarterback Tyler Guy was sacked six times, but Zephyrhills still had its chances. Lance Hayes zigged and zagged across the field, diving into the end zone for an apparent 52-yard score. But the play was called back on a holding penalty.
The Bulldogs also recovered a fumble late in the second quarter, taking it 10 plays, 74 yards. But on the final play of the half at the Gators' 8, Guy was sacked and the Bulldogs were left with no points. Fisher said he considered a field goal, but felt they had a good shot at the touchdown.
"It was there earlier," Fisher said. "We didn't get the blocks when we needed it."
Guy kicked a 21-yarder in the third quarter for the Bulldogs' only score.