By Andy Villamarzo
Hernando Sun sports staff writer
SPRING HILL- Springstead’s football team made great strides in 2019 and was able to get themselves back in the postseason behind one of the better senior-laden classes they’ve had in a while.
The problem now is that senior class who helped get them back to the playoffs is now graduated and the Eagles are now looking for some underclassmen to fill their shoes. That will be a tough ask of players, especially during a pandemic in which Springstead lost valuable practice time in the spring and over the summer months for 7-on-7’s.
Now Springstead coach Mike Garofano will have to figure out how exactly he will manage a team that will have to fill in several holes on both sides of the ball. Firstly, he must start off with replacing the heart of the defense in middle linebacker Adrian Cabrera, who was the key in the Eagles’ front seven. Also, another player Springstead will have to replace is quarterback Max O’Rourke, who managed an offense that rushed for over 200 yards a game last season.
Garofano pointed out the team’s key contributors as Nicholas Billingsly (Defensive End),
Logan Crossley (Offensive Tackle) and Azekwiah Lewis-Baldwin (Fullback/Cornerback). Replacing running back Anthony Alexis will be challenging, as he rushed for over 1,000 yards in 2019. Cross Licht is another player that should make an impact on offense. “Our strength is the offensive line,” Garofano said.
“They are big and experienced and very smart so offense will be our strength.”
Springstead lost just two games last season, with both losses coming against district rival Lake Minneola. Now with the Florida High School Athletic Association eliminating district play essentially for one school year and making every team playoff eligible based on season completion, the road back to the postseason is much easier.
The only issue for the Eagles is making sure the defense returns to past form and also the fact they may just be playing a seven-game season and not competing in the state series. The Gulf Coast 8 conference is currently still deliberating on when the start of prep football practices and fall sports will take place between Citrus and Hernando counties, but it’s looking less likely they’ll be state series eligible. Pasco, Pinellas, and Hillsborough will all start play on September 11th, while Hernando and Citrus may not start until late September, early October.
A new, old face that is back in the building is former Springstead head coach Bill Vonada, who most recently was an assistant coach with Weeki Wachee last season and prior to that was the lead man at Hernando High School. Vonada now returns to his old stomping grounds to team up with Garofano, forming what could be the best coaching staff in Hernando County. The philosophy between the two obviously matchup and the Eagles should pose as a formidable threat during the 2020 campaign.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.