By Andy Villamarzo
Hernando Sun sports writer
LECANTO- On Thursday night, the Springstead Eagles took advantage of Luke Malmberg’s absence, top running back for the Lecanto Panthers.
Springstead got a big rushing night out of running back Owen Andress, who rushed for a game-high 166 yards on the ground and the Eagles cruised past the Panthers 41-6. The Eagles will now improve to 6-3 on the season and have a big district matchup against Ocala Vanguard coming up on Friday. For now, Springstead can enjoy the big win. They have also tripled their win total from a year ago.
903 yards. That’s the total amount the Panthers were sorely missing from Malmberg, who suffered a shoulder injury last week and was held out of the contest. Lecanto (3-5) had to make do with backup running back Darius Gainer and that didn’t last too long. The Panthers ended up losing Gainer in the second quarter and that was just the start of issues.
Springstead (6-3) got the game-changing play in the second quarter when a blocked punt really changed the momentum fully in the Eagles’ favor. Already up 21-6 heading into halftime, quarterback Nick Centola hit running back Cross Licht (11 carries, 63 yards) on a 15-yard touchdown pass and the Eagles went into intermission up with a commanding 27-6 lead.
An early play-action pass, 64 yards from Schwantez Simmons to Donovan Foster, was the longest scoring play of the night and it belonged to Lecanto. Other than that, the Panthers had very few bright moments the rest of the game. Springstead’s wear-you-down attack worked to perfection in the second half, as the Eagles were able to wind the clock down and keep the Panthers at bay.
Churning out yards wasn’t an issue whatsoever for offensive coordinator Bill Vonada’s offense, as Springstead ended the evening with 359 total yards. Springstead got a nice evening from Centola under center, as the signal-caller completed 5-of-8 passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns. Centola’s season totals are now at 34-of-70 passes for 607 yards, 10 touchdowns, and just two interceptions.
Andress improves his rushing totals to 721 yards on the season and Licht sits at 582. Now heading into the Eagles’ last regular-season game, they’ll face what is their toughest task of the campaign and that’s somehow defeating a very tough Ocala Vanguard team. The Knights are currently undefeated and seem destined to win the Class 6A, District 5 championship barring any upsets down the stretch.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.