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HomeSportsFootballMccazzio and Eagles Down Sharks in Running Back Duel

Mccazzio and Eagles Down Sharks in Running Back Duel

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On Friday night, the Springstead Eagles (2-1) defeated the Nature Coast Tech Sharks (2-1) by a hard-fought 21-14 margin at the Shark Tank. After a season-opening loss, Head Coach Michael Garofano’s squad got back on track last week against Citrus and continued that momentum this weekend thanks to a massive performance from Junior RB Connor Mccazzio. This was despite a strong start from Senior RB Christian Cromer and the home team. Tensions ran high between these two very familiar teams, and the visitors emerged victorious from this duel of running backs.

“What a crazy game,” Coach Garofano said. “Crazy. Just nuts. So much emotion. You know there’s guys that have both played with each other, other teams. We have guys that went there, they have guys that went here. So, that’s where all the emotion comes from. Of course, it’s a cross-town thing.”

Nature Coast opened the game with excellent field position near midfield, thanks to a short kickoff. Cromer was involved early and often during a 5-minute, 14-play drive that saw the Sharks run on every single down. The running back eventually broke through for a touchdown at the goal line but was unable to punch in the two-point conversion shortly after.

Nature Coast, 12, Connor Riggins cuts inside the pursuit by Springstead ,1, Derrick Chiarella Friday at Nature Coast. Photo by Joe DiCristofalo
Nature Coast, 12, Connor Riggins cuts inside the pursuit by Springstead ,1, Derrick Chiarella Friday at Nature Coast. Photo by Joe DiCristofalo 9/8/23

The Eagles came out with a 20-yard pass on the first play of the next drive. They then settled into a run-heavy pace for the rest of the drive with Mccazzio until the visitors turned it over on downs near the red zone. The team in black and Columbia blue went right back to work with a 10-play drive that continued into the second quarter. The drive would be ill-fated, though, as Junior Jacceb Florkowski missed a short field goal.

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Later that quarter, the Connor Mccazzio show officially kicked off. On the first play, the back took a handoff around the right side, evaded tacklers, and ran 75 yards for a touchdown. The Red, White, and Blue went into the half with a slim 7-6 lead, and no team would score again until early in the fourth quarter. The next time the visitors found the endzone, Senior PJ Class punched it in from 18 yards out with 10 minutes remaining. The drive that led to Springstead’s second score saw Mccazzio with the ball in his hands on every single play of the drive leading up to Class’s touchdown.

Springstead High’s Connor McCazzio , who had the game clinching 50 yard touchdown run , finds running room on this play Friday night versus home team Nature Coast.
Springstead High’s Connor McCazzio, who had the game clinching 50 yard touchdown run, finds running room on this play Friday night versus home team Nature Coast. 9/8/23 Photo by Joe DiCristofalo.

“I’m always telling my offensive coach [Connor Mccazzio]’s one of the best players in the area, and we have to feed him the ball,” Springstead’s coach said. “I don’t care if it takes 30 times, 20 times, whatever. Whatever it takes, feed him the ball, get downhill, run behind the line. I was proud of the way the line played. Connor was obviously a difference-maker. Huge… his resilience was great.”

After Head Coach Robert Kazmier’s squad tied the game on a Cromer touchdown and two-point conversion, the teams traded punts. Then, with 1:06 left in regulation, Mccazzio put the final touches on his night when facing a 4th and 1. From just beyond midfield, the junior broke through the middle of the line and bolted past the creeping secondary to paydirt. Despite the fantastic night from the running back, Coach Garofano was not pleased with the litany of flags his team drew and plans to fix the issue.

Springstead High’s Connor McCazzio , who had the game clinching 50 yard touchdown run , finds running room on this play Friday night versus home team Nature Coast. Photo by Joe DiCristofalo
Springstead High’s Connor McCazzio , who had the game clinching 50 yard touchdown run , finds running room on this play Friday night versus home team Nature Coast. Photo by Joe DiCristofalo 9/8/23

“Our discipline, jumping offsides, penalties,” Coach Garofano said. “We had a couple roughing penalties last week. I thought we addressed it. We had more penalties this week, and it’s unacceptable. It’s not Springstead football. That’s not us. So, it’ll be addressed, it’ll be corrected, or else some guys won’t be with us.”

Coach Kazmier and the Sharks will endeavor to get back on track next week when they travel to take on the Hudson Cobras at 7:30. The Eagles will also take on the Sunlake Seahawks on the road on Friday. 

Coach Garofano’s squad hopes to reduce their penalties and extend their win streak to three at 7:30. “We have a decent team,” the head coach said. “We have a good team that could be great if everyone buys in, everyone plays not as an individual but plays together as a team. We could be really good.”

Springstead ,3, P.J. Class breaks this Nature Coast tackle on the way to an 18 yard touchdown. Photo by Joe DiCristofalo
Springstead ,3, P.J. Class breaks this Nature Coast tackle on the way to an 18 yard touchdown. Photo by Joe DiCristofalo 9/8/23
Springstead ,3, P.J. Class on the way for an 18 yard touchdown. Photo by Joe DiCristofalo 9/8/23
Springstead ,3, P.J. Class on the way for an 18 yard touchdown. Photo by Joe DiCristofalo 9/8/23
Nature Coast running back, Christian Comer, scored a touchdown and a game tying 2point conversion to knot the game at 14-14 late in the fourth quarter. Photo by Joe DiCristofalo
Nature Coast running back, Christian Comer, scored a touchdown and a game tying 2 point conversion to knot the game at 14-14 late in the fourth quarter. Photo by Joe DiCristofalo 9/8/23
Nature Coast running back, Christian Comer, scored a touchdown and a game tying 2 point conversion to knot the game at 14-14 late in the fourth quarter. Photo by Joe DiCristofalo 9/8/23
Nature Coast running back, Christian Comer, scored a touchdown and a game tying 2 point conversion to knot the game at 14-14 late in the fourth quarter. Photo by Joe DiCristofalo 9/8/23
 Springstead’s defense rallied to stop a scrambling Nature Coast Tech QB, 5, Jackson Hoyt on a third down to force a punt and set uptime game winning drive. Photo by Joe DiCristofalo 9/8/23
Springstead’s defense rallied to stop a scrambling Nature Coast Tech QB, 5, Jackson Hoyt on a third down to force a punt and set uptime game winning drive. Photo by Joe DiCristofalo 9/8/23
Nature Coast, 3, Carlos Rodriquez gave chase but couldn’t catch Springstead’s ,4, Connor McCazzio as he scores a 50 yard TD.Photo by Joe DiCristofalo
Nature Coast, 3, Carlos Rodriquez gave chase but couldn’t catch Springstead’s, 4, Connor McCazzio as he scores a 50 yard TD. Photo by Joe DiCristofalo 9/8/23.

Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch is a Graduate with Distinction, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. He's written numerous articles reporting on Florida Gators football, basketball, and soccer teams; the sports of rugby, basketball, professional baseball, hockey, and the NFL Draft. Prior to Hernando Sun he was a contributor to ESPN, Gainesville, FL and Gator Country Multimedia, Inc. in Gainesville, FL, and Stadium Gale.
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