The door appeared open for Springstead all season, after a 4-0 start, a bounce-back district win against Leesburg and a winning streak to ride into its final district game.
It took about six minutes Friday for the door to close.
A turnover and a blocked punt helped Clermont East Ridge mount a 21-point rush in the second quarter, taking Springstead out of its game plan and sending the Eagles to a 35-14 loss.
The Eagles needed to win the Class 4A, District 6 game to force a three-team shootout Monday and hold onto hope for their first playoff berth since 1996. Instead, East Ridge (8-1, 4-0) completed an undefeated district season in only its second year of varsity football.
"Obviously, coming into this game you have high hopes," Springstead coach Bill Vonada said. "Obviously, we're disappointed."
Springstead (6-3, 2-2) found the offensive balance it was looking for in the first quarter on an 83-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 1-yard run from Tim Dow. Quarterback Ian Wald found tight end Chris Ferguson twice for big plays on third downs to keep the drive alive.
But East Ridge responded with a 66-yard drive of its own, ending on a 1-yard run from Paul Gaynor to tie the score at 7.
Then, the wheels fell off for Springstead.
Derrick McMurray fumbled the ensuing short kickoff at the end of a return and East Ridge took over on the Springstead 40. The Knights converted a third-and-19 to keep the drive going and scored on a 2-yard run from Gaynor to go up 14-7.
East Ridge then forced Springstead into a three-and-out situation, but Wald's punt attempt was smothered and recovered at the Eagles' 23-yard-line. Six plays later, Gaynor scored again and it was 21-7.
East Ridge scored on its first possession of the second half to go up 28-7, and from there Springstead was forced out of its game plan. Wald had 19 passing attempts in the second half, far more than he usually has in an entire game. He finished 14 of 30 for 140 yards.
"It wasn't easy," Wald said. "Once we went behind they knew we were going to pass in the third and fourth quarter, so they were blitzing us with linebackers, they were stunting hard. We did our best to handle them, but when the other team knows what you're going to do, it's tough."