By FRANK PASTOR
OFFENSE: Springstead lost most of its skill players from last season but figured to compensate with the return of three of its five linemen.
It hasn't been enough.
After mounting little or no offense in its first two games, the unit bottomed out with five turnovers in a 60-10 loss to Land O'Lakes.
The Eagles bounced back with their best performance in last week's 23-21 loss to Lecanto. A line anchored by Charles Gonyea, Broc Olejniczak and Joe Vitale cleared the way for Tim Dow and Jose Yearwood to rush for more than 100 yards.
First-year quarterback Ian Wald is a threat to run or pass, and kicker Mike Hibbert is a weapon inside 45 yards.
The unit has made more progress than any other, but it has a long way to go.
DEFENSE: It carried Springstead to victories in its final five games last season.
But many of the key players -- linebackers Allen Lamb and Dan Raddish and defensive lineman Jeff Hess, in particular -- left, making the Eagles an inexperienced group.
The intensity has picked up, but inconsistency continues to be a problem. The unit will make two stops, then allow a long run for a touchdown.
Hernando and Crystal River exploited holes in the middle of the field for scores of 25, 28, 35, 49 and 63 yards, and the Lecanto game turned on Jarvis Patterson's 62-yard run.
The Springstead "D' cannot shoulder all the blame for the Land O'Lakes loss, since five turnovers by the offense and a bad punt snap shortened the field considerably for the Gators.
OVERALL: The Eagles appeared to turn a corner the second half of last season, but inexperience and inconsistency have put them into the same early hole.
The effort has been there, but execution too often has not.
With so much player turnover, it is not entirely fair to compare this team to its predecessor. However, consistency from one year to the next is part of building a winning program, and that has been Springstead's goal from the start.
STANDOUT PLAYER: Dow, a sophomore running back, picked up the offensive load after Justin Melnik was arrested and Joe Merando missed 11/2 games with a deep ankle bruise.
On 59 carries in 4 starts, Dow has gained 342 yards -- 102 against Lecanto and 95 vs. Central.
PLAYOFF PROSPECTS: In a stronger district, perhaps, none.
Few teams can start 0-5, then turn around and win the three or four district games needed to make the postseason.
But in a district in which four of the six squads entered Friday night's games with records of 1-3 or worse, anything seems possible.
At least this much is certain: Springstead cannot afford another district loss if it hopes to return to the playoffs for the first time in six years.
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