SPRING HILL – This is how Springstead wanted to end its regular season. Now all the Eagles can do is sit back and hope the math plays out in their favor to deliver on their slim postseason hopes.
Despite being down 15 points to Hernando after three quarters, Springstead showed great resilience in a 31-24 comeback victory.
"It was a tale of two halves," Springstead coach Mike Garofano said. "We came out in the second half fired up, and we were a totally different team in all phases of the game."
The 39th edition of this storied county rivalry began with the Eagles (7-3) scoring on their opening drive. Springstead quarterback Nathan Sims (16 carries, 105 yards, two touchdowns) broke off a 39-yard run that eventually set up his own 5-yard touchdown run. The extra-point attempt by Max O'Rourke was blocked by Hernando's Josh Vonada to make it 6-0.
The Leopards (8-2) answered immediately. The postseason-bound district champions went to wingback Ygenio Booker four carries for 40 yards on their first possession.
Fullback Izzy Fields (13 carries, 91 yards, two touchdowns) plunged into the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown, and Luke D'Ambrosio's extra point gave Hernando a 7-6 lead. Fields added a 25-yard run and another touchdown run in the first quarter.
Riding standout Randy Morgan on a 12-play, 61-yards drive, Springstead attempted to answer. A holding penalty pushed the Eagles back and the team had to settle for an O'Rourke 29-yard field goal with 1:40 left in the half. The missed opportunity came back to haunt the home team when Booker returned the ensuing kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown.
D'Ambrosio nailed a 39-yard field goal to account for the only scoring of the third quarter, putting Hernando up 24-9. That is when the tide turned.
Morgan took a 47-yard run inside the red zone, and Springstead cut the lead to 24-16 on a Sims 10-yard scoring run. A botched handoff was recovered by Eagles linebacker Alex Lozada on the next possession, leading to a Morgan seven-yard touchdown run. The senior fullback added a two-point conversion run to tie the score at 24-24.
"We came out hyped and ready to play in the second half," Morgan said. "We were frustrated, and our senior had to step up. We knew this might be our last game together."
Momentum stayed with Springstead and Morgan. He returned a punt for 12 yards to bring it to midfield. Finishing the night with 29 carries for 218 yards and two touchdowns, his winning 5-yard run with just over five minutes remaining proved to be enough.
On senior night, fellow senior Isaiah Delgado pulled in his fourth and fifth interceptions of the season to clinch the victory. It was first two picks thrown this year by Hernando quarterback Boston Tafelski (0-of-6).
"Our secondary played great (Saturday night)," Garofano said. "Our coaches screamed at them at halftime, and our guys responded."