Eagles overcome sloppiness to win classic

Photography by Cheryl Clanton

HUDSON – For the past two decades, Springstead has prided itself on playing a disciplined, mistake-free brand of football.
But preseason classics are rarely a showcase of crisp, fundamentally-sound performance. To that end, Thursday night’s exhibition at Hudson revealed plenty of ragged edges, though still yielded a positive result: a 32-6 victory.
“We were sloppy. Turned the ball over twice, too many penalties,” Springstead head coach Mike Garofano said. “First half was sloppy, but I was proud of the way we responded in the third quarter. We came out strong, started moving the ball, started pushing them around a little bit.”
Even with playmaking junior Nathan Sims, taking over at quarterback this season, sitting out for precautionary reasons, the Eagles found success in the running game behind sophomore Anthony Alexis and senior Randy Morgan.
Alexis, a newbie on the varsity roster, struck the initial blow on Springstead’s first drive of the night. After Morgan ran three times for 11 yards, Alexis took a third-down handoff, turned the corner and raced down the left sideline for a 62-yard touchdown.
“He kind of made his name tonight,” Garofano said. “He was a JV player last year, came up on varsity at the end. He’s good. He’s a solid player. We’re going to need him for the stretch run.”

Adrian Fribley, filling in at quarterback for the Eagles, carries the ball against Hudson. Photo by Cheryl Clanton

The Cobras, who went 6-4 in 2016, nearly tied it up in the second quarter when Dylan Dilandro hit Trey Doran on a slant that went for a 50-yard scoring strike. However, a failed point-after try left it 7-6, the score at halftime.
Springstead received the ball first out of the intermission, and Morgan and Alexis combined for six rushes covering 68 yards, the last 30 on a scamper to the end zone by Morgan.
Later in the third, Alexis tacked on his second touchdown, this time on a 34-yard run, to push the lead to 21-6. On just 10 carries, he ran for 142 yards.
“It was a good way to start the season. I’m ready to do more,” Alexis said. “I had amazing blocking. My line is just great. My lead blockers, they give me the way to go and I just follow the path.
“It’s a big thing for me. It sets the momentum for me, it sets the pace for me. I’ve got expectations that I’ve got to go out there and do good, and help my team.”

Senior Randy Morgan leads Springsead onto the field Thursday night at Hudson. Photo by Cheryl Clanton

Morgan served as the primary back with 24 rushes for 132 yards, but he and the rest of the varsity players were out at the end of the third quarter, giving way to the JV squad. In the fourth, Jaylen Thompson ran for a 19-yard touchdown and Chris Tibbs had a 38-yard dash to paydirt.

Springstead's Justin Muriel pursues Hudson quarterback Dylan Dilandro during Thursday's contest. Photo by Cheryl Clanton

Springstead, a 6-3 playoff team a year ago, hosts county-rival Central to start the regular season next Friday.
“You could tell after tonight, especially after the first half, we definitely were not ready,” Garofano said. “We’ll evaluate, we’ll watch film and we’ll get ready for Week 1. If we’re going to make mistakes I’m glad we made them in this game and hopefully we don’t make the same mistakes next week.
“We can’t lose the turnover battle 2-0 in many games and come out ahead. We’re going to play some good football teams. Hudson played well, they played hard. We’re going to face some better teams in the road ahead, so we’ve got to get better.”
In other county preseason action, on Friday night Weeki Wachee won at Tavares, 28-14, while Central traveled to Groveland-South Lake and lost, 35-15. On Saturday, Nature Coast took part in the Jonathan A.P. Ferrell Kickoff Classic at Gene Cox Stadium in Tallahassee, and fell to Tallahassee-Godby, 43-13.
Follow Chris Bernhardt Jr. on Twitter @cpbernhardtjr.

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