TARPON SPRINGS — On what may be the biggest quarterback keeper of his life, Tarpon Springs senior Danny Reyes didn't merely run smack up the gut of the Springstead defense. He made a figurative detour.
He dashed right through the Eagles' heart as well.
Reyes' 10-yard touchdown run, on his team's first play of overtime, lifted the Spongers (7-2, 4-1) to a 23-20 triumph over the Eagles (6-3, 3-2), who seemed a lock for a playoff berth less than three weeks ago.
But the Spongers' triumph, coupled with Land O'Lakes' win Friday at Ridgewood and the Eagles' shocking loss to River Ridge two weeks ago, leaves Springstead as the odd team out in the Class 4A, District 8 playoff hunt. Land O'Lakes is champion; Tarpon Springs is runnerup.
"I'm so disappointed for our guys; certainly not disappointed in their effort," Springstead coach Bill Vonada said, his voice cracking. "Things going bad in the middle of the game there and they kept fighting and fighting and fighting, and really fought their way back so well."
"It's just the nature of the game."
Reyes' winning scamper stymied not only Springstead's playoff aspirations, but a valiant Eagles rally.
The Spongers had taken a 17-14 lead on Reyes' 13-yard touchdown pass to Savvas Damalos with 2:27 to play. On the previous play, Reyes had hooked up with Drew Kier, who got behind Springstead's secondary, for a 61-yard completion.
But the Eagles answered with a 13-play, 77-yard drive, capped by senior Nate Schafer's 29-yard field goal with 3.2 seconds remaining in regulation.
"We knew there was plenty of time. We've worked that (two-minute) drill an awful lot," Vonada said.
The Eagles converted twice on third down during the drive, including a 23-yard pass from James Mahla to James Wozniak, giving the Eagles first and goal at the Spongers 5.
On a previous third-and-10 situation, the Spongers were flagged for pass interference.
Mahla was sacked for an 8-yard loss on third and goal from the 5, but Schafer still converted his fourth field goal of the year in as many tries. He added his fifth, a 23-yarder, on the first possession of overtime.
On the next play, Reyes (25-for-35, 255 yards, one touchdown) dropped back in a clear pass attempt, before tucking the ball and running directly into Spongers lore.
"It was meant to be a pass," Reyes said. "I don't know, I just made something happen, that's all I can say."