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Eagles get by stubborn foe

If there ever was a "look-ahead" game, or one sandwiched between two bigger ones, Springstead had it Friday night at Lecanto.

The Eagles at times played like it, getting by with a 22-8 victory.

"Absolutely, it's tough to get up emotionally as high for two, three weeks in a row," Springstead coach Bill Vonada said. "I'm sure the coaching staff probably had one eye looking forward to next week, a district game."

Springstead (3-0) opened with wins over Hernando County rivals Hernando and Central, and next week the Eagles host key district foe Groveland South Lake. Against Lecanto, Springstead built a businesslike 15-0 halftime lead, then held on while the Panthers gamely hung in with their strongest effort of the season.

After Eagles kicker Justin DeMutiis missed a 49-yard field goal late in the third quarter, Lecanto took over at its 20-yard line and put together a bruising, clock-eating drive. Nineteen plays, nine minutes and 80 yards later, junior running back Richard Chaney plunged in from 1 yard out to make it 15-6 midway through the fourth quarter.

Lecanto (0-3) then made a gutsy two-point conversion call, and Wayne Babyak answered with a running score to make it 15-8.

An upset was a possibility, but Springstead refocused and answered with a scoring drive, going 71 yards on nine plays. A key third-and-3 was converted from the Lecanto 22 with a pass over the middle from Ian Wald to tight end Chris Ferguson, and three plays later Tim Dow punched it in from 2 yards for the game-sealing touchdown.

"They're not 3-0 for nothing," Lecanto coach Bob LeCours said. "I felt physically we competed with them. That's what I was looking for. We wanted to get back to competitive. This is our best game."

Just one week earlier, the Panthers lost 70-13 to South Sumter. Against Springstead, they found consistent offense, rushing for 235 yards. Chaney led the way with 151 on 25 touches.

The Eagles played with a bit of a patchwork defensive front, with Charlie Hulse out with the flu and Chris Schaefer injured on the first series. "You don't want to make excuses, but that hurt us somewhat, guys either making bad decisions or guys getting injured and other guys not being quite ready to do the job," Vonada said.