Springstead coach Bill Vonada has a few holes to fill in his option-attack offense, and many of the returners in the fall will be sophomores and juniors, including quarterback Tyler Mahla.
The lanky signal caller has good bloodlines. His older brother, James, quarterbacked the Eagles from 2005-08 and led them to a 7-3 record in his senior season, narrowly missing the playoffs.
With Tyler at the helm, Vonada wants to keep the Eagles’ offense balanced and knows he is going to have to ease the sophomore into filling the shoes of the graduated Brian Beeker, who accounted for more than 2,000 all-purpose yards and 14 touchdowns.
It will also be tough to replace the hard-running style of Devean Huff, who rushed for 887 yards and four scores. The Eagles will lean heavily on running backs Pedro Estrada and Jeremy Junod, who came on late last season with a stellar rushing effort (17 carries, 85 yards) in Springstead’s 40-8 region quarterfinal victory over Wiregrass Ranch.
Springstead is one of 14 teams from the North Suncoast participating in the Pasco County 7-on-7 passing league this summer. The Eagles wrapped up Week 3 at Land O’Lakes on Tuesday.
“Tyler was fortunate to get some playing time in last season’s playoff game vs. a very tough Gainesville team and came out alive,” Vonada said. “We’re going to mix it up a little bit, but certainly I’m not the kind of guy who very often takes a sophomore quarterback out there and throws it all over and says, ‘Hey, the game is on your shoulders now.’
“We’re going to spread the ball around, and we feel like we have some good running backs we can get the ball to.”
Keeping up with Jones
One clear standout from Tuesday’s west side 7-on-7 action was host Mitchell’s Freddie Jones, who consistently found soft openings in opposing defenses and provided a target for first-year starting quarterback Spencer Whittaker.
Jones, entering his final season at Mitchell, made perhaps the catch of the evening when he raced down the sideline and jumped over his Sunlake defender to haul in an underthrown pass that was in danger of being intercepted.
Jones finished off the drive by making a strong catch over the middle with two defenders bearing down on him.
Later against Sunlake, Jones made a nice adjustment on a ball behind him in the end zone, reaching behind on an out pattern to bring in the touchdown pass.
Last season, Jones was more of a backfield threat in the Mustangs’ run-oriented attack. He had 52 carries for 130 yards and scored four touchdowns. Jones caught only nine passes in 2010 but averaged nearly 13 yards a reception.
Under coach Scott Schmitz and his ball-control philosophy, Mitchell likely won’t sling it all over the field this season either. But when the Mustangs do throw, look for Jones to be a major playmaker. He’s a shifty, elusive athlete who will be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.
Whittaker, by the way, threw some nice passes and could help breathe life into an anemic passing game. Last season, Mitchell threw for just 69 yards and averaged only five completions a game. Whittaker will be a senior this season and was recently invited to the Blue-Grey national combine in Canton, Ohio.
Gulf searching for fit at QB
Gulf’s 26-0 spring loss to Anclote didn’t give the Bucs many answers at the quarterback position, and this summer has brought first-year coach Tom Carter a three-way battle between senior Ty’Shon Peters, sophomore Chris Klyap and incoming freshman Keshaun Peters.
“I’d like to avoid starting Ty’Shon at quarterback if I can help it,” Carter said. “Ty’Shon is an athlete that can play multiple positions and his younger brother, Keshaun, is a talented kid himself, and Chris is very smart and knows where to put the ball.
“We have three quarterbacks, but it’s really a two-way battle right now between Chris and Keshaun. I think 7-on-7 is helping both of them right now, but I don’t put much emphasis on it.”
Ty’Shon Peters brings the only varsity experience to the position, throwing for 343 yards and rushing for 88 in four games under center in 2010.
The 7-on-7 league will take a two-day hiatus this upcoming week because of the July 4 holiday. Week 4 action will be held July 7 at Fivay and Wiregrass Ranch at 5:30 p.m.
Compiled by staff writer Bryan Burns and correspondent Andy Villamarzo.