Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Springstead upset puts pressure on for Tarpon matchup

Fans in stadiums across the North Suncoast couldn't believe one score that echoed among the others on the night of Oct. 24:

River Ridge 31, Springstead 14.

Husbands turned to wives in disbelief. Coaches grabbed athletic directors and begged them to triple check the score.

To say this was one of the great football upsets in North Suncoast history is no overstatement, and it transformed the Class 4A, District 8 race into one of the bay area's most captivating.

"Honestly, no one expected us to win that game," River Ridge coach Tim Stevens said. " … We gave those guys (Tarpon Springs and Land O'Lakes) a second life."

Now the district race comes down to three teams — all 6-2, 3-1 in the district — and two games Friday. The most significant is Springstead's visit to Tarpon Springs.

Assuming Land O'Lakes defeats Ridgewood (a reasonable assumption):

• A Springstead win will give the Eagles the district title and knock Tarpon from playoff contention.

• A Tarpon win hands Land O'Lakes the district title and eliminates Springstead from playoff contention.

Such is the do-or-die stage — erected by River Ridge — upon which the Eagles and Spongers will perform.

The Royal Knights entered that Oct. 24 game having lost 38 of their past 39. Their lone win during that stretch: against first-year program Sunlake, in Sunlake's first varsity contest.

Springstead expected to be one win closer to a playoff berth and its first district title since 1996.

The upset sparked chaos, and River Ridge had suddenly raised its average to one win every two seasons.

"(Gators coach John) Benedetto called me the day after and thanked me for doing him a favor," Stevens said. "I guess it was a big upset. … They were in first place for the district and we didn't win a district game in how many years?"

Springstead was having a remarkable season, winning five of its first six games. Its lone loss was at Nature Coast, now ranked No. 10 in the Class 3A state poll. The Eagles were 2 yards shy of punching in the winning score when a fumble at the center-quarterback exchange helped the Sharks seal the 20-15 victory.

Despite that setback, the Eagles had no district losses until their visit to River Ridge.

What was thought to be an improbable upset was something some saw coming.

"You could see it happen," Land O'Lakes assistant Al Claggett said. "Springstead didn't play very well defensively at the line of scrimmage. River Ridge was able to run their dive play and their power play. … In the fourth quarter, Springstead turned the ball over three straight times in their territory."

Spongers coach George Kotis noted the Eagles were also banged up and lost nose guard Christian Quinones, who has been out with a leg injury but could return this week.

Kotis doesn't expect an easy game Friday.

"(Springstead has) the senior leadership at all the skill spots," Kotis said. "I mean, that's a big chunk of it. The senior leaders have been in the same system and know how it works. They're high-quality kids."

The Eagles dusted themselves off last week with a 28-14 win over Ridgewood. Once the pageantry and distraction from homecoming ended, coach Bill Vonada gathered his team for a brief critique then stated the obvious: Tarpon Springs is a playoff game.

"I think mentally we're in a good spot," Vonada said. "Give River Ridge credit, but our guys really felt like they did not give their best performance. Certainly, the season's not over. I don't want to say the season will be lost.

"I can guarantee you this is the biggest game this week."

Times staff writer Joey Knight contributed to this report.

Springstead upset puts pressure on for Tarpon matchup 11/04/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 6, 2008 11:57am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rowdies settle for draw at home


    ST. PETERSBURG — The good news for the Rowdies is that they still haven't lost a game at Al Lang Stadium since late April. The bad news is they had to settle for a 1-1 tie against Ottawa on Saturday night in front of 6,710 sweaty fans.

  2. Bats come to life, but Rays' freefall continues (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG —The six runs seemed like a ton, just the second time the Rays had scored that many in a game during their numbing two-plus-weeks stretch of offensive impotency, and amazingly, the first time at the Trop in nearly two months.

    Lucas Duda connects for a two-run home run in the sixth, getting the Rays within 7-5. A Logan Morrison home run in the ninth made it 7-6, but Tampa Bay couldn’t complete the comeback.
  3. Rays journal: Cesar Puello, who has one major-league game, claimed off waivers

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Looking to add punch to their right-handed lineup, the Rays claimed OF Cesar Puello off waivers Saturday from the Angels.

  4. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Saturday's Rays-Mariners game

    The Heater

    SS Adeiny Hechavarria doesn't always look like he's going hard, but he showed impressive reactions Saturday in reversing field to catch a ball that clanked off the catwalk then firing to second to double up Guillermo Heredia on an attempt to tag up.