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Tarpon Springs' 4A title quest ends, but pride remains

ORLANDO

They huddled under parkas and umbrellas and outnumbered the smattering of fans sitting on the home side.

They were wet, cold and disappointed. But the fans who traveled on Friday night to witness Tarpon Springs High's football team fall to Orlando's Edgewater High, 41-20, in the third round of the state playoffs said they still are proud.

It was the team's first time advancing this deep in the playoffs since 1986 when it lost to Fort Lauderdale Dillard in the title game.

"Even though we lost, to see them come this far makes it all worth it," said Valantis Kouros, an 18-year-old senior at Tarpon Springs High. "I'm still proud of their accomplishments and I'd always take a trip to support the Spongers."

James Dorsett was there where he has been since 1970. He was sitting in the stands on the 50-yard line wearing his maroon hat with a "T" on it. But because of the persistent rain, the cap was covered with his parka's hood.

"It was kind of rough for us tonight," said Dorsett, 59, a Tarpon Springs High graduate and former football player. "You know when a sponge gets wet, it gets kind of heavy, but I'm still proud of those kids."

Gathered in the center of a rain-soaked field after the defeat, head coach George Kotis instructed the players to keep their heads up.

"Everything we did this season, we did with pride," Kotis said. "You are now part of Tarpon's football history. Now, let's show our pride with our academics.

"Our season may be over, but we can't drift away from our academics. Let's keep our reputation with our grades and show the same pride. We will walk out of here as a family."

Senior linebacker Kostas Vavlas was covered in mud and overwhelmed with emotion. The whites of his eyes were the same maroon as the number on his jersey. He fought back tears. For him and the other seniors, the lights went out Friday night on their high school football careers.

"We just wanted it so bad," Vavlas said. "We worked hard, we just wanted it so bad …"

Vavlas then walked to the edge of the field where his father and the team's other mothers and fathers awaited their sons just beyond the gridiron. He gave his dad a hug. Once the embrace was over, mud from Vavlas' uniform remained on his father's face.

"He just has so much heart," said Michael Vavlas. "He's a great kid and I'm proud of him. I'm proud of all of them."

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at dalee@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4174.

Tarpon Springs' 4A title quest ends, but pride remains 12/05/09 [Last modified: Saturday, December 5, 2009 2:48pm]
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