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HomeSportsFootballSpringstead Falls Short in Spring Game Against South Sumter

Springstead Falls Short in Spring Game Against South Sumter

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SPRING HILL – In the end, the opponent probably meant more than the outcome for Springstead on Thursday night.

The Eagles welcomed a South Sumter team that traditionally plays deep into the state playoffs for a spring football classic at Booster Stadium. The Raiders pulled off several large chunk plays to rally from an early deficit against Springstead in a 28-17 victory.
“I think this will be the best opponent on our schedule. That’s why we scheduled it. We want to play good teams,” Springstead head coach Mike Garofano said. “You’re not getting any better playing and beating a team 50-0. You want to play elite teams, playoff-caliber teams, Final Four-caliber teams to see where you’re at. It’s a good measuring stick.

“We have some skill. We’ve just got to eliminate the big plays. Eliminate the big plays and it’s a game. We’ve got to do a better job tackling in the secondary and eliminate the big play.”

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Both teams played the first quarter with several reserves in the mix before shifting to regular starters for most of the final three quarters. The Eagles, who were a playoff qualifier last year while going 7-4, went up 10-0 in the opening period, scoring on each of their first two possessions.
The first one was an 11-play drive capped by a 31-yard field goal made by Raul Maldonado. South Sumter, 11-2 last year and a regional finalist, fumbled twice on the ensuing possession and gave the ball back to Springstead at midfield.
That resulted in a 48-yard touchdown run by Tyree Davis, as he leaped over a defender and raced down the left side of the field, reaching the end zone with 1:42 to play in the first quarter.

A pair of long touchdown passes put the Raiders on top in the second. Quarterback Blaine Walker hit Stanley Young for a 27-yard scoring strike at the 5:51 mark. A quick three-and-out by the Eagles followed and South Sumter needed just one play, a 50-yarder from Walker to Young, in which the latter broke several tackles to make it 14-10 with 4:11 to go in the half.

Springstead went back in front at 6:06 in the third on an impressive play as quarterback Gio Martinez rolled right and found a wide-open Maldonado in the end zone. Maldonado then tacked on the extra point and it was 17-14 in favor of the Eagles.
“It was beautiful,” Martinez said. “Raul, he kind of got a little messed up and then continued through the play. We work on it every day at practice, working through adversity, and it worked out perfect.”

The Raiders eventually went back on top when Ja’Kyrian Turner broke off a 70-yard touchdown run at 1:48 in the third. That was one of five plays of 20 yards or more for the South Sumter offense.

In a fourth-quarter drive that began with a 47-yard pass from Walker to Bubba Boone, Tayshaun Young ran up the middle for a 4-yard score with 10:23 left on the clock. Springstead failed to cash in on its final five possessions.

“I liked the physicality,” Garofano said. “I felt like when we played them in the kickoff classic last year, they kind of smacked us in the mouth and we didn’t hit back. We were hitting back today. It was fine. That’s what I was looking for, was for us to be physical, not to back down, to step toe-to-toe and not get bullied like we did in the classic. I was proud of that.

“They came out with new wrinkles. They weren’t an RPO team in the past. We weren’t prepared for it in the first half and got better prepared for in the second half. We gave up the one big one still because we missed an assignment. But if we had to play again, it’d be a little bit different game plan. We could have helped our secondary out a little bit, but we’ve still got to tackle. That was the big thing.”

Despite the loss, Garofano saw plenty of positives this spring to build upon over the summer heading into the 2024 season.

“We had some good practices. It kind of came together,” Garofano said. “I really like what we can do offensively. We’ve got a dual-threat quarterback. We’re able to throw the perimeter game, the quick screen game and block it really well, which is impressive, which is already better than last year.

“RPO game is going to come along. We were able to throw the ball downfield. We had one that we almost connected on; that would have been a big play. We’re going to be tough to stop.”

Chris Bernhardt
Chris Bernhardt
A resident of Spring Hill since 1986, Chris graduated from Springstead High in 1999 before moving on to earn a bachelor’s degree in journalism at the University of Central Florida. In summer of 2003 he joined the staff at Hernando Today, working at the paper for 11 years as a sports reporter, the last three as sports coordinator in charge of the paper’s sports coverage. After an initial 3-year stint with Hernando Sun, he spent four years as a staff sports reporter at the Citrus County Chronicle. Follow on X @cpbernhardtjr.
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