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Battle of the Big 'Uns

The play of the lines will be critical when the Bears face the Eagles.

Published September 19, 2003

BROOKSVILLE - Time after time, it moved the ball downfield and into the red zone.

And time after time, it came away empty-handed.

To many, Springstead's inability to finish drives during its opener against Hernando might have been cause for alarm.

But to line coach Frank Vitale, the Eagles' offensive performance was the key to a 10-7 victory.

"Even though we didn't get into the end zone like we wanted to, we were going up and down the field on them and keeping their offense off the field," Vitale said.

"That was the difference between this year and last year, and that had a lot to do with experience."

Experience, particularly along the offensive and defensive fronts, is the biggest difference in a Springstead team that won its second game eight weeks sooner than it did a year ago.

And the ability to control the line of scrimmage likely will determine the outcome tonight when Springstead (2-0) hosts Central (1-1) in a Class 4A, District 6 game.

"Both teams are moving the ball real well offensively," Springstead coach Bill Vonada said. "Defensively, we've had a couple of pretty decent performances as well. It should be a real good matchup."

Springstead's offensive line of Joe Vitale, Eric Bruscino, Charles Gonyea, William Wilson, Broc Olejniczak and Calder Simmons is not especially big (averaging 6 feet, 1 inch and 250 pounds) but has experience. Vitale is a fourth-year starter. Gonyea and Bruscino have played for three seasons and Wilson and Olejniczak for two.

Their familiarity with one another allows them to complete their blocking assignments even when opponents switch to defenses other than those they saw during practice.

"Every one of them's been battle-tested," Vonada said. "You can have a guy who looks great in drills, but the first time he gets out there, it's a different game. Once you get used to playing in that game atmosphere, it helps."

Springstead's experience carries over to defense, where Gonyea, Bruscino and Simmons sometimes draw double duty. They join Joe Greco and Joshua Golden on a front that gets off the ball well and sheds blocks quickly.

The solid play of first-year starters Golden (eight tackles) and Greco (four tackles) occasionally allows Springstead to rest its two-way players on defense.

Central is not as fortunate.

The Bears dress only 23 players, and two (including defensive end Anthony Wright) are returning from injuries.

But the offensive line of Andrew Leavine, Michael Nelson, Blake Manzow, Brian Oakes, Wade Hampton, Jason Santiago and Michael Noyes match Springstead for size (6-2, 250) and experience.

They have cleared the way for 578 rushing yards, 404 during a 49-6 victory against Lecanto.

"This is their second year all playing together, so they've got some continuity," Central coach John Wilkinson said. "They're all pretty smart in terms of picking up and making calls."

Defensively, the Bears start Mike Caldwell, Brandon Dampier, Brian Giddens (13 tackles and three sacks) and Noyes (14 tackles). Oakes and Leavine also see time.

Up front, the teams appear to be equally matched.

"They're going to have as many physical guys as we've got on the line of scrimmage," Vitale said. "That's what football is about, though, and we're looking forward to it."

- Frank Pastor can be reached at 800 333- 7505, ext. 1430. Send e-mail to

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