BROOKSVILLE — Roughly 20 minutes before the clash for Hernando County supremacy commenced Friday evening at Nature Coast, a rainbow appeared on the eastern horizon.
Normally, such a meteorological phenomenon is the precursor to clear skies.
On this night, it signaled a downright deluge of riveting action — and pivotal turnovers.
In the first half, those cough-ups kept Springstead in this ultra-hyped showdown. In the second, it took the Eagles out.
A fumbled exchange on the Sharks' 2-yard line with 56 seconds to play preserved Nature Coast's 20-15 triumph before a standing room-only throng at Nature Coast and regional TV audience.
The Eagles had put themselves in scoring position two plays earlier when quarterback James Mahla found 5-foot-6 senior James Wozniak over the middle for a 26-yard completion to the Nature Coast 4. Mahla finished 12-for-23 for 159 yards.
"I'm not going to say anything; we lost," said Eagles senior Ben Noury, who finished with a double-digit tackle total, converted a successful fake punt and caught five passes. "But I'm saying we should've won that game."
As late as the final minute of the third quarter, Springstead seemed in control on the scoreboard. Bryce Hollingshead had just returned a blocked 33-yard Matthew Montano field-goal attempt to the Nature Coast 24 with 1:10 left in the quarter.
The next play from scrimmage, however, Sharks senior defensive back Mike Fields scooped up an Eagles fumble and returned it 73 yards for the go-ahead score.
"We certainly gave them a couple there that you certainly can't afford to give a team that's that good," Eagles coach Bill Vonada said.
"We were the beneficiary of it early in the (game) though, too. You look at a game like this, you could probably pick a half-dozen plays, a half-dozen calls."
Seventy-one seconds into the game, Eagles senior Dominic Roberson picked off a C.J. Baker swing pass — the naked eye may have even deemed it a backward lateral — in stride and raced 50 yards for a touchdown. It was one of two first-half Sharks turnovers that led to Eagles points.
"That (intercepted pass) was a bad call on my part," Sharks coach Jamie Joyner said.
With 2:12 remaining before halftime, Tevin Drake fumbled away a would-be 31-yard TD in his end zone. Ten plays, 75 yards and at least three Mahla screen passes later, Nate Schafer booted a 22-yard field goal to give his team a 15-13 halftime edge.
Sandwiched between the Springstead scores: Drake's 2-yard run that capped a four-minute, 56-yard drive; a 1-yard keeper by Mahla to finish off a 69-yard drive; and a 60-yard touchdown scamper by Sharks tailback Antwan Story.
Drake finished with 140 yards on 27 carries. Baker added 60 yards on seven carries for Nature Coast, which churned out 282 yards on the ground.
"Turnovers were a big part of the game for both of us," Joyner said. "It was a sloppy, ugly football game. But we were able to come out on top and keep our composure. You've got to go through a little adversity like that throughout a season."