NEW PORT RICHEY — The preseason flatness shown by Gulf and Tarpon Springs in Friday night's first half — when the varsity units played — may best be quantified by the passing numbers.
Spongers senior Danny Reyes threw for 71 yards, Bucs junior Madison Burr threw for 16, and the officials threw for 135. Amid the profusion of penalty flags, a hearty Des Little Stadium crowd — undeterred by a one-hour lightning delay to kickoff — saw two promising defensive efforts in the Spongers' 15-12 victory.
"No (team) is clicking right now," said Bucs coach Jay Fulmer, who went exclusively with JV players in the second half. "If anybody's firing on all cylinders and peaking right now, they're going to have a lot of problems by Week 5."
The Spongers led 7-6 at halftime on Reyes' 1-yard touchdown keeper set up by his 29-yard pass to Bobby Vavlas, who got behind the Bucs coverage down the right side. The pass was preceded by a foiled Bucs fake-punt attempt on fourth and 15 at their own 23.
Reyes (5-for-13 in the first half) struggled with his accuracy and drops, while the running game failed to get untracked, managing only 40 yards against a stiffened Bucs unit that allowed 29.5 points a game in 2007.
"They're improving," Fulmer said. "We're getting to the football which we didn't do last year. We've done a lot of pursuit drills and it shows."
Similarly, the Spongers defense suffocated Burr, with senior Dre Danapas getting in on three sacks. Gulf finished the first half with 132 yards, but 67 came on Ridgewood transfer Adrian Golden's touchdown run off right tackle.
Joey Knight can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.