Three fumbles and two interceptions add up to a 28-3 loss to fourth-ranked Clermont East Ridge.
SPRING HILL - A couple of Springstead breaks, a few less mistakes, and it could have been a better ballgame.
On a night when Springstead needed to play as well as they possibly could, the Eagles committed five turnovers that widenened the gap between them and a district championship.
Clermont East Ridge took advantage of every opportunity it had and rolled to a 28-3 victory to clinch the Class 4A, District 6 title.
The Eagles (6-2) tried to see the bright side, knowing they probably could have kept up with the much larger Knights (8-0) if not for three lost fumbles and two interceptions.
"We expected a battle," Springstead fullback Tim Dow said. "They're undefeated for a reason. But I'm proud of the guys.
"The little mistakes, the little fundamentals ... if we can clean those up we can go far."
Springstead's follies began in the second quarter, when quarterback Ian Wald fumbled at the line of scrimmage. East Ridge recovered at the Eagles 7-yard line, and Knights running back P.J. Perry ran it in for a touchdown.
The Eagles managed to gain enough yards on the next possession to get within field-goal range, and Justin DeMutiis kicked a 50-yarder, his longest.
With the score 7-3, Springstead's defense tried to stave off East Ridge in the final minute of the first half, but Knights quarterback Stephen Batman broke open his passing game with back-to-back 35- and 37-yard passes to Richard Jackson, and Perry followed up with a 4-yard run for the score.
The Eagles didn't fare much better in the second half, and again a huge turnover cost them. In the fourth quarter Wald threw a long pass to Knights defensive back Chimdi Checkwa, who returned the interception 54 yards for a touchdown.
Perry led the Knights with 135 yards rushing on 18 carries. Dow led the Eagles with 70 yards on 18 carries.
The Knights, who are ranked fourth in 4A and have largely overpowered every district opponent so far, were expected to win. The Eagles knew they'd have a tough time with their defense, and they knew this would be the most powerful opponent they would face during the regular season.
The Knights knew this, too.
"We knew we'd win," Jackson said. "You plan for district games like this. Our defense played real well, and if they can't score, they can't win."
Springstead coach Bill Vonada said the Eagles plan on working to cut out the mistakes, especially now that they face a tough road game in the first round of the playoffs.
"We haven't turned the ball over like that all season," he said. "Against a fourth-ranked 4A team that should be in 6A, that's going to cost you."