For Springstead’s football team, the return to the postseason after a two-season absence proved a short visit. But considering the task it faced, the result wasn’t unexpected.
The Eagles visited Ocala-Vanguard in a Class 6A, Region 2 quarterfinal on Friday night and suffered a 45-0 defeat.
Yet considering the Knights (9-1) boast several Division I prospects and averaged 45.7 points in the regular season with an average margin of victory of 41.4 points, it was no secret that Springstead (6-3) faced an uphill battle.
“I’m pleased with our guys’ effort and their fight and their never-quit attitude,” Springstead head coach Mike Garofano said. “It felt like offensively we put some drives together, moved the chains, got first downs and then we turned the ball over once, or got penalties. Defensively, we struggled to contain their athletes.
“It was definitely a tough draw for the first round. Vanguard is very talented, very athletic. They’re legit.”
Justin Watkins, a running back committed to Florida State, rushed for 135 yards and scored three touchdowns to pace the Knights. University of Miami-bound quarterback N’Kosi Perry completed 10-of-13 passes for 175 yards and threw for three scores, two of them to Russell Tolbert.
Vanguard scored two touchdowns apiece in each of the first three quarters, leaving little suspense as it advanced to next week’s semifinal against Mitchell.
“It was nice to be in the playoffs. It was good for the guys to see what’s out there outside of Hernando County,” Garofano said. “The positives would be making it back to the playoffs, just being in it, and the senior class going out with a good season. Obviously the last game wasn’t the best in the world as far as score and outcome. But we left it all out there. That’s something to be proud of.
“Our goal every season is to make it to the next round. Of course you’d like to win once you get in, but only a few teams in the state of Florida win a state title and there’s a ton of competition out there.”
In other local football news, Central senior De’Vonta Smith, who finished the regular season as the state leader in both rushing yards and touchdowns, announced that he has committed to Division I Appalachian State.
The only other fall sport remaining, swimming, wrapped up on Saturday as Springstead junior Zack Starz participated in the 2A FHSAA Finals at Sailfish Splashpark Aquatic Athletics Center in Stuart.
Starz finished 20th in the 50-yard freestyle, recording a time of 22.61, an improvement over his 22.86 seed time from regionals. He also lowered his time in the 100 free, placing 19th in 49.80 after coming in at 50.04.
With boys soccer season beginning this week, Nature Coast went 2-1, starting off with a 7-0 win over Central on Tuesday and collecting a 1-0 triumph over Zephyrhills on Friday, sandwiching a 2-1 loss to Pasco on Wednesday.
Weeki Wachee won its only contest, defeating Hernando 7-0 on Wednesday. Harry Flanagan had two goals and three assists, while Kameron Benvenuto scored twice. Matthew Armstrong, Bailey Hypes and Alex Walker each added a goal and an assist, and Jake Brooks had six saves in the shutout.
Springstead went 1-1-1, tying Crystal River on Monday, 1-1, beating Wesley Chapel on Wednesday, 2-0, and falling to Pasco on Friday, 4-0.
In girls soccer, Weeki Wachee has gotten off to a 3-3-1 start. The Lady Hornets tied Citrus on Monday, 2-2, and beat Hernando on Wednesday, 5-2, before setbacks against Lecanto on Thursday, 4-1, and Fivay on Friday, 2-0.
Those three wins already represent a team record for the program that began play when Weeki Wachee opened in 2010. Freshman Reilley Bain leads the Lady Hornets with six goals, while sophomore Lauren Mullen has four.
Follow Chris Bernhardt Jr. on Twitter @cpbernhardtjr.