Monday, February 19, 2018
Sports

Springstead QB Mahla a born leader

SPRING HILL — The lineage of Springstead quarterbacks over the past 10 years has much in common.

Leading a dangerous read-option offense, the signal callers from Ian Wald (2003) to Brian Beeker (2010) have been threats with their legs and arms, and the latest weapon under center is no different. In fact, Tyler Mahla may be the best of the bunch.

Mahla seemed destined to play the position since birth, coming from a family of Springstead quarterbacks.

His father, J.P., started for the program in 1984 under former coach and current athletic director Bob Levija. Mahla's older brother, James, started from 2006-08.

"I definitely take a lot of pride and honor being the starting quarterback of this team, following in the footsteps of my dad and my brother," Mahla said. "I'm not letting it affect me any further than one game at a time."

Mahla, who has played since he was a sophomore, has surpassed both of them statistically. While he became the first of his namesake to reach the postseason when he got playing time in the second-round loss to Gainesville as a freshman, he was more instrumental in guiding the Eagles to a district title last season.

The senior is focused on winning a playoff game before his career is over. Springstead has only won two postseason games in the school's 38 years, both under former coach Bill Vonada (2004, 2010).

"Being around this program, he knows the history and the expectations," Springstead offensive coordinator Dustin Kupcik said. "Tyler is competitive as hell. It doesn't matter what you're playing, he wants the pressure, he wants to spotlight. He wants to put the team on his back."

Combined with a dominant defense, Mahla has led the best Springstead offensive attack in years under first-year coach Mike Garofano. Before the season began, Garofano vowed to be more aggressive than in past years.

Mahla — armed with more skill players in the backfield including Daniel Wright (609 yards), Kevin Bedford (297) and Latavious Hannah (11 catches, 150 yards) — is on pace to join Beeker (1,251 yards in 2010) as the only Springstead quarterbacks to break the 1,000-yard rushing mark in a season.

"I have trust in my guys (teammates) and coaches," he said. "When it comes down to it, I know we're going to get the job done."

Along with 910 yards on the ground, his 15 touchdowns are already a single-season team record. Mahla has thrown for 511 yards and two touchdowns with only three interceptions, guiding Springstead to seven consecutive wins after losing the opener at Citrus.

For his career, Mahla has 2,451 yards rushing and is 20-9 as a starter, the most wins for any quarterback in program history.

Emphasis on legacy and respect is talked about constantly within the Springstead locker room. District titles are not just wanted, but expected by the players and coaching staff. After reaching the postseason two of the past three seasons, tonight's trip to Land O'Lakes could clinch back-to-back district championships for the first time.

"(Last year's playoff loss to Ocala Vanguard) left a bad taste in our mouth," Kupcik said. "The bar is set higher now. We expect to win district championships. We expect to win playoff games. Tyler definitely exudes that."

There is no other player than Mahla the coaching staff would rather have leading the huddle with Class 6A, District 6 on the line.

"Regardless of history, anytime you have a three-year starter at quarterback, you're extremely blessed," Kupcik said. "He's like another coach out there. The kids trust in him."

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