The Springstead High School Eagles (3-0) blanked the Nature Coast Tech Sharks (1-1) at home by a score of 28-0 on Friday night. Coming into the non-district matchup, the Eagles had dominated their two previous opponents by a combined score of 95-7. The Sharks’ lone matchup against Hernando was equally one-sided, as they won their season opener 45-3. Friday’s game would prove to be a useful barometer for judging these two undefeated teams. Impressive performances from Sophomore Running Back Connor Mccazzio and Senior Quarterback Ayden Ferguson catapulted the home team to their shutout victory at the Eagles’ Nest.
After an uneventful possession by Nature Coast to open the contest, Springstead put seven points on the board by way of a Connor Mccazzio run. A long reception down the sideline by Senior Wide Receiver Caidell Gilbert set the offense up in enemy territory and soon the home team found themselves in the Sharks’ red zone. A few plays later, the sophomore running back took a handoff from Ferguson, cut to the left around a traffic jam of jersey-clad bodies, and ran down the sideline for the only score of the first half.
Despite the lopsided final score, the rest of the first half was a battle. Both defenses locked the field down and forced the opposing offenses into difficult situations. On the ensuing drive for the visitors, a roughing-the-punter penalty was called on Springstead. This gave the Sharks new life. They marched all the way down the field and would have scored a touchdown on a handoff to Junior Running back Christian Cromer if not for their own holding penalty. A recovered fumble by Sophomore Quarterback Jackson Hoyt on the next play pushed the visitors further back. Sharks Head Coach Cory Johns elected to go for it on 4th and 17, but the team was unsuccessful. That drive proved to be the closest Nature Coast would come to scoring for the entire evening.
The Eagles had a similarly ill-fated possession on their next drive that saw them commit four penalties and end with an Ayden Ferguson fumble. The offense did chew up over nine minutes of game clock, however, and moved the ball down the field. This kept the Eagles’ defense rested and allowed them to almost ride that sole possession through the entirety of the second quarter until the end of the half. Coming out of the break, Head Coach Michael Garofano’s squad made some adjustments and began to consistently push the Nature Coast defense back.
“There was a few adjustments they made after the first drive that we counter-adjusted kind of at halftime and figured out a couple of things that we liked,” Coach Garofano said. “Really, I mean it’s a testament – the players just played well. The line blocked well. The backs ran really well. The quarterback put us in great position, made the right reads. I mean, it was all together. I feel like in the second half we also wore them down.”
The extra snaps finally began to show with 4:25 remaining in the third quarter when the home team struck again by way of a 15-yard touchdown run up the middle by number 15 himself. The Eagles were not finished scoring in the third period as Mccazzio busted off his second touchdown run of the night: a 75-yard scamper as the quarter expired. Coach Garofano’s commitment to the run paid off in the second half as the team scored its final of four rushing touchdowns late in the fourth. Ferguson’s 10-yard run up the middle, which was set up by a blocked punt by Senior Outside Linebacker Madden Buratczuk, gave the quarterback his second rushing touchdown of the night.
Coach Garofano was extremely pleased with the play of his quarterback and running back against the Sharks. “Ayden played outstanding,” the head coach said. “He’s played outstanding all three games so far… It’s like having a coach on the field. He knows our offense inside and out. He knows what everyone has to do on every play and if kids have any questions on the field, they turn to him… Connor, when he turns it into gear, he’s gone. You know, he’s fast. We were fortunate to be able to get him out in the open a little bit yesterday, get him loose.”
With another dominant performance and second shutout of the young season in the books, the Eagles will look to continue their momentum against Sunlake (1-2) on Friday 9/16. Springstead will host the Sunlake Seahawks from Land O’Lakes at 7:30.