Nov. 4, 2017 - On the final night of regular-season football at the high school level in the Tampa Bay area, county opponents Hernando and Springstead met up in a matchup for the ages. The 39th meeting between the two teams was important for both teams because of the ramifications: a win for Springstead would keep their slim playoff hopes alive, while a win for Hernando would give them an 8-1 record and just about guarantee the district title and a home playoff game.
For three quarters, just like the Super Bowl 9 months ago, Hernando held a double-digit lead over the Eagles, but couldn’t shut the door on arguably the most important game on their schedule.
On senior night at Springstead, the Eagles (7-3) refused to give up in front of their fans, coming back from 15 points down to stun the visiting Leopards, 31-24.
For the Leopards (7-2), this game was crucially important for their final seeding and points. Riding behind Israel Fields, who gained 91 yards on 13 carries (7.0 YPC), the Leopards used his two scores in the first quarter to pull out an early lead. Senior wide receiver Ygenio Booker also added a 40-yard run to set up Fields’ first score, and following a Springstead field goal, returned the ensuing kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown. Once the third quarter ended, the score read 24-9, and it appeared Hernando would cruise to a win.
That feeling was just like the Super Bowl, many NFL fans thought the same for the Atlanta Falcons when they were up 28-3 on New England. Everyone knows how that turned out. And that same feeling came around in the fourth quarter for the Eagles.
Springstead had a 47-yard run by Randy Morgan to set up a Nathan Sims 10-yard scamper, making the score 24-16. On the next Hernando possession, a handoff was bobbled, and Springstead recovered. Morgan would punch it in from seven yards out, then add the two-point conversion. Just like that, it was a tie game at 24 all.
Not to be outdone, Morgan, who finished the game with 218 yards on 29 carries (7.5 YPC), ran in the game-winning score from five yards out with a little over 5 minutes left in the ballgame. A pass by Leopards quarterback Boston Tafelski was intercepted by senior cornerback Isaiah Delgado, sealing the Eagles comeback with just over a minute remaining.
Springstead head coach Mike Garofano after the game was incredibly proud of his team. “This game was a tale of two halves. Our team came out fired up in the second half, and we were a completely different team in all aspects”.
Going forward, what remains to be seen is the playoff seeding. Springstead’s come-from-behind win should just about give them enough points to squeak into the 6A regional playoffs, but nothing is guaranteed. As for Hernando, their playoff seeding is very interesting. The Leopards finished with a 7-2 record, 5-1 in their district of 5A-7. Their only loss in district play came to Nature Coast, who also finished their season with a 7-2 record. The difference here is that NCT beat Springstead, while Hernando could not. At 11AM today, the NFHS will be live streaming the playoff brackets on their website, so everything will be set in stone for the first round of the FHSAA playoffs.