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Football: Pinellas Park 25, Tarpon Springs 13

Published Sept. 17, 2016

TARPON SPRINGS — It was appropriate that Pinellas Park's final score, on the final play of the game, came by way of a safety. That typified a defensive effort saved the Patriots' bacon in a tougher-than-the-score-appears 25-13 victory Friday night over Tarpon Springs.

From Zamari Maxwell's 21-yard interception return for a touchdown that opened the scoring to the end zone sack — Pinellas Park's 10th of the night — the Patriots' D covered for an offense that suffered four turnovers, two in the red zone.

"(Spongers coach) George (Kotis) has done a super job," said Pinellas Park counterpart Kenneth Crawford. "They remind me of the old Tarpon Springs teams, mean and nasty. It's not easy to turn around a team but they're off to a great start."

The Spongers' Michael Ashley had two fumble recoveries and Jerome Fowler's strip and scoop stopped a Pinellas Park march at the Sponger 17.

Tarpon (1-2) struggled on offense, being held to minus-1 yard of offense in the first half, then busted out some big plays to stay in the contest.

A wide lateral to receiver Justice Parham turned into an 83-yard TD pass to Ashley in the third quarter. Quarterback Fowler hit on a short toss and the junior turned it into a 60-yard, fourth-quarter jaunt to the end zone.

But the Patriots (2-0) mustered just enough productive offense on a first-half, 15-yard scoring romp from Dale Foster (171 yards on 23 carries) and Maxwell's 27-yard play-action touchdown to Ma'kel Calhoun to make the difference.

"Some people thought we'd run over them, but we watched film on (Tarpon) and knew they were tough," said Calhoun, who had 3½ sacks. "We were a little sloppy and (Tarpon) gave us a run for our money, but we prepared well. We're brothers, we're family, and we got after it."

"I was a defensive coordinator before becoming head coach, we built this team on defense, and we had to lean on them (Friday)," Crawford said. "Our kids played super hard and never quit. They stayed together and that's a big thing."