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Springstead-Nature Coast rivalry heating up

Springstead quarterback James Mahla’s team was shut out by Nature Coast last season.

ATOYIA DEANS | Times

Springstead quarterback James Mahla’s team was shut out by Nature Coast last season.

The rivalry started like this. Rumor had it Nature Coast wanted to knock out a Springstead player in the first meeting in 2005. And when Eagles quarterback John Hogeland was knocked out to end the first quarter, well, Springstead felt there were a few late hits and began to roll. "It was actually a close game early on," Springstead coach Bill Vonada said. "We heard rumors they're going to go after this kid and knock this kid out. Well, it happened. Our quarterback got knocked out of the game. It came at the end of a quarter and fired our guys up." The Eagles went on a roll and blew out the Sharks 43-0. Then they doused Vonada with a bucket of ice water that still leaves chills on some of the senior Sharks.

The next season, Nature Coast won 15-10 in a game coach Jamie Joyner classified as a "program-defining" win. Since then, the Sharks have gone 15-4 in the regular season and the Eagles are 10-10. That includes last year's Sharks shutout, 20-0 at Springstead.

The game is not lost on the student body or the communities. Two years ago, Nature Coast students dragged rubber chickens through the hallways with ropes. Springstead students have openly questioned the Eagles' fight.

This year, the Sharks are promoting a "blackout," encouraging every Nature Coast fan to wear black. Springstead has the support of its student body, too, and is promoting its own "white-out" encouraging fans to wear white T-shirts.

With that we bring you our three "T's" to victory.

Turnovers

Nothing can turn momentum quite like a turnover. Last year, the teams combined for nine in Nature Coast's 20-0 win at Springstead. So far, the teams have combined for just one entering Week 2.

A lot of Nature Coast's issues stemmed from the veer offense and the quarterback-running back exchange. Other times it was simply the quarterback trying to reach for the extra yard. Sharks quarterbacks fumbled 22 times last season, 14 in 2006. Even running back Tevin Drake had five fumbles in two seasons.

The Eagles fumbled three times in the first quarter last year and never could gain any momentum until their final drive. And if you consider the big games, Springstead quarterback James Mahla has had ballhandling issues in games against the Sharks and Central.

Trenches

The big question entering the season was Nature Coast's offensive line. So far, it has protected junior quarterback C.J. Baker and blocked for the running backs. Defensively, each lineman can bench more than 300 pounds. Joyner said the linemen used to be bigger than those on other teams. Now they're more athletic, anchored by D.J. Williams and John Carbone.

Vonada said not to underestimate his linemen despite the fact the group weighed an average of 199 pounds before the first game. But for those who recall Hudson's region final team in 2005, lack of height certainly wasn't a factor in its postseason run. Vonada said his kids play above their heads and with heart. "We're smaller than we've been in years but we're pretty good," he said.

Television

If there weren't enough hoopla, Catch 47 is airing the game live as its game of the week.

"It puts Hernando County out there. It's not a distraction, but it's out of the normal routine," Joyner said. "… You get a game like this with a rivalry game, that intensity will override the cameras."

. fast facts

What they're saying

Springstead and Nature Coast athletes weigh in on the game at highschool.tampabay.com.

Springstead-Nature Coast rivalry heating up 09/11/08 [Last modified: Thursday, September 11, 2008 9:59pm]
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