Central High School
By Chris Bernhardt | Hernando TodaySunlake at Springstead, 7:30 p.m.
Published: September 21, 2012
Published: September 21, 2012
So far this season, so much has gone right for Springstead.
Through three games, the Eagles are a perfect 3-0. They've won in blowouts, and last week in a 28-21 victory at Anclote they showed they could win ugly on the road.
All that good feeling could fall by the wayside, however, if Springstead can't continue its early run of success when it hosts Sunlake at Booster Stadium.
This week marks the first district action for all local teams, and the Seahawks are the defending Class 6A, District 6 runners-up.
"It's definitely a 0-0 approach," Springstead head coach Bill Vonada said. "None of those previous games, as nice as they were and as fun as were, mean anything at all.
"Coach (Bill) Browning, we know having that extra week to prepare is going to be ready. Sunlake is one of the quality and premiere programs in Pasco County now. We're going to have to play a lot better than last week in order to compete with them."
Browning, of course, was once the Eagle headman, with Vonada on his staff. His 49 wins at Springstead ranks second to Vonada's 73 on the school's all-time list.
Now Browning has built Sunlake into an area force. The Seahawks enter 2-0, having defeated Hudson and Wiregrass Ranch before last week's bye.
That they only narrowly beat the winless Bulls, 17-12, raised some eyebrows. Wiregrass Ranch's other losses were 30-6 to Wesley Chapel and 61-0 to Pasco.
Senior Eddie Burgos has carried the offensive load thus far, rushing 29 times for 344 yards and four touchdowns. He also has six catches for 80 yards and a score.
The Eagles can respond with sophomore Daniel Wright and his uncanny knack for finding end zone. He has run for two touchdowns in each game this season.
Quarterback Tyler Mahla has generally played well, completing 22-of-36 passes for 336 yards, with four touchdowns against three interceptions.
Running the triple option, he has 28 rushes for 172 yards and two scores.
Then there is the defense, which finally permitted a point last week, yet continued to produce game-changing turnovers and stops.
"There were a few things that we need to clean up from last week, but we did know that Anclote was going to be a bit tougher challenge," Vonada said.
"Really you can't take anything away from Anclote. They've got some good players. We felt they have a strong defense and had a couple of athletes who could make some plays. Certainly they showed that during the course of the game.
"The thing I'm proudest of with our guys was the way they battled back. Seemed like every time we'd let them make a play or we would make a mistake, one unit or another would bounce back with a big play."
Still, there remains a hint of uncertainty about where both of these teams stand in the district hierarchy. Tonight could go a long way toward determining postseason fates.
"We feel like this will be our toughest challenge yet," Vonada said. "It's going to be 11 good guys on both sides of the ball. We're going to play the best game we can and see what happens."
This game will be carried live on WWJB 1450 AM and streamed live at wwjb.com, beginning with the pregame show at 7 p.m.
Central at Nature Coast, 7:30 p.m.
A once fierce county rivalry between Central and Nature Coast may have tempered some in recent years, as both programs have fall on tougher times.
But that doesn't mean when the Bears and Sharks meet at Shark Tank Stadium tonight, that the matchup has lost all meaning; certainly not with the 6A-6 implications.
"It's the opening of our county season and the opening of our district season," Nature Coast head coach Charles Liggett said. "So two things are at play here.
"We can go 1-0 in the county, 1-0 in the district, 2-2 on the year and get feeling that we'll be back on track."
The Sharks (1-2) can feel better about themselves following a 17-8 win last Friday at Dunnellon.
Matt Breida ran 34 times for 177 yards and a touchdown, but Liggett pointed to a different aspect of the offense.
"We threw more," Liggett said. "We made a conscience effort. We've got to put the ball in the air. We worked on breaking our stuff down and worked off that. I think that helped.
"No big changes, but subtle differences made a big difference."
Junior Ryan Quigley, reclaiming the starting quarterback job he had in Week 1, went 5-of-8 passing for 54 yards and a touchdown, and will remain under center.
Still, it's no secret that Breida remains the backbone of the Nature Coast offense. When he faced Central in 2011, he posted 355 yards and six touchdowns in a 52-0 win.
"I think Matt has the potential of having another big game," Liggett said. "With that in mind, we still have a developing passing game and we need to work on that."
On the other side, the Bears (1-2) will try to avoid a repeat performance by Breida.
"We've got to do everything we can," Central head coach Mike Einspahr said. "I don't think you can ever stop him. He's a very good athlete, a very good football player. We've just got to do whatever we have to do to contain him. We'll see what we come up with."
There have been rays of hope for the Bears thus far, especially since an opening loss to first-year Weeki Wachee,
They couldn't follow up a victory over Wildwood with another against Lecanto, falling last week 26-13, but they are starting to compete.
"We talked to the kids, sured up a lot of things we talked about," Einspahr said. "We've minimized turnovers. We've done a lot better job with that part of things.
"We need to do a better job of being technique football players, and when we have opportunities, we have to capitalize."
Sophomore quarterback Cody Brooks has been cleared to return from the concussion that knocked him out most of the last two games, yet Einspahr hasn't decided on a starter between Brooks and junior Cole Teater.
Both figure to take some snaps, and will be tasked with trying to keep Breida and the Nature Coast offense off the field.
"I think we'll have a good game if we control the ball, take care of the things we can take care of, and give ourselves a chance to be successful," Einspahr said. "Hang in there and at the end of the game hopefully give ourselves a chance to win."
Conversely, the Sharks don't want to give the Bears that chance, especially by continuing their trend of turning over the ball.
"If we play like we did against Dunnellon, with the same focus and intensity, I think we can play with anybody on our schedule," Liggett said. "But I'm not overlooking anybody."
Land O' Lakes at Hernando, 7:30 p.m.
Few if any would have projected that Hernando would sit 0-3, as it embarks on its defense of its 6A-6 title.
The Leopards face that reality, however, taking on traditionally tough Land O' Lakes at Tom Fisher Memorial Stadium.
However, a 38-6 loss to red-shot South Sumter a week ago that was more competitive than the final score indicates has produced reasons for optimism.
"We did lose, but we showed a lot of effort," Hernando head coach Dwayne Mobley said. "We played hard, so that's a good thing.
"If we were going into the district after we played East Ridge or South Lake, I'd be worried a little bit. But the guys actually looked pretty good in the game."
That more consistent effort throughout the contest was missing when the Leopards blew leads in their first two defeats.
But the performance was far from perfect. Mobley admitted his team must take better care of the ball, and his offensive line "needs to block to the whistle."
He even conceded that the Leopards must throw the ball more, while opening up better running holes.
The good news for Hernando, Mobley indicated that linebacker O'Mar Hawkins and lineman Kyle LoParco are practicing this week after missing the South Sumter game with an injured ankle and the flu respectively.
Even better news for the Purple and Gold, they can erase this dreadful start much as they did their 1-2 beginning to 2011, by pulling things together in 6A-6 action.
"I told the guys, 'Hey, it starts now. What we did before now doesn't matter. It's what we do now.'
"If we go to the district and lose, it doesn't do us any good to win those (first) four games," Mobley said, including the preseason.
In the preseason, Hernando earned a 21-7 victory over Pasco. Two weeks ago, Land O' Lakes (1-1) stumbled versus the Pirates, 49-7.
The Gators ended a 14-year streak of reaching the playoffs last year, so they are perhaps more vulnerable than in recent history.
Still, Land O' Lakes should provide a decent test to see how much progress Hernando has made, as the season's critical stretch gets under way.
"It's very important," Mobley said. "Especially where we're coming from. It's very important to come out there and have a good district game and play like we're capable of playing for four quarters."
Weeki Wachee at Umatilla, 7:30 p.m.
In yet another first for Week Wachee (1-1), the Hornets are ready for their inaugural district action.
They'll make the first of three road trips of at least two hours, traveling to Umatilla for a Class 4A, District 4 meeting.
"I'm telling these kids, 'Now these games count,'" Weeki Wachee head coach Mark Lee said. "One, they get you in the postseason, and right now I told the kids it's a great chance to start the season right. The first two games were like preseason for us."
The Hornets, coming off a Week 3 bye, have had a respectable showing thus far, with a 33-14 win over Central and 24-7 loss to Lecanto.
"The bye week happened at a great time for us. We had some players banged up," Lee said. "We just got back to a lot of basics and fundamentals, and going over weak areas that Lecanto exposed.
"We were frustrated with our offensive performance. We were pretty bad offensively. We barely had 50 yards of total offense and made a lot of key mistakes. We got to play better and we got to execute."
The week off did allow middle linebacker Jacey Tarter to shake off the ankle ailment that kept him out of the Lecanto game.
Running back Jon King played with a bum shoulder against the Panthers, and Lee said that has healed up.
Umatilla comes in 3-0, having beaten its previous opponents by a combined 96-13.
"The kids seem pretty excited about the challenge," Lee said.
"Teams aren't going to roll over. A lot of teams are probably excited about playing us, being our first year. They're thinking they've got 'W.' It's our job to prove them wrong and surprise them."
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