TAMPA — He was tired and his left shoulder hurt badly, but as the clock struck 00:00 and his team emerged with a 27-19 win over Robinson on Friday to clinch a playoff spot as the Class 3A, District 11 runnerup, Spoto quarterback J.B. Burgess cracked a smile.
"This," he said, "is a real good feeling."
A postseason appearance seemed improbable only two months ago, when Spoto (4-5) was stripped of three early-season wins, then dropped two more on the field to fall to 0-5. But if the Spartans, a second-year program, have proven anything this fall under first-year coach Dale Caparaso, it is that they're a resilient bunch.
"The kids could have folded their tents," Caparaso said. "God bless them. They've worked so hard."
Friday's game played out much like Spoto's season. The Spartans started hot, cooled off and fell behind, then finished strong, scoring the go-ahead points on a 6-yard Burgess run with 4:19 left. Spoto had trailed 16-13 at the half and for a bit it appeared as though Robinson (2-7), which would have reached the playoffs with a win, had the Spartans somewhat up against the ropes at times.
During the first two quarters, the Spoto offensive line was manhandled. But in the second half, the Spartans came to life up front. After rushing for only 15 first-half yards, Spoto gained 155 yards on 31 carries in the third and fourth quarters, 58 from Rodney Williams.
With 22 seconds left, Caparaso was doused with ice cold water, and he didn't seem to mind a bit.
"Who would have thought a second-year program would be in the playoffs?" Caparaso said.