SPRING HILL - When a game is this close and dramatic, you can recognize which team won and which lost by the looks on the players' faces.
Friday night the Springstead players grinned smiles as wide as the Sahara and only blinked to blot out the sweat dripping from their foreheads. South Lake, on the other hand, was a team of teenage boys with blank stares, hanging their heads as if there were no muscles in their necks.
Springstead's 26-21 last-minute win hurled both teams to opposite ends of the emotional spectrum.
Linebacker Kenny Beeker enjoyed the end he was on and can't wait until Monday. "Oh man. Everybody's going to be coming up to me. There's going to be so much hype," he said.
Beeker was a defensive stalwart all game, but the Brooklyn transplant saved the day as a bulldozing running back. It was as if he was Springstead's secret weapon, not touching the ball on offense until late in the fourth quarter. His third carry was a 3-yard touchdown that gave Springstead a 20-14 lead.
Then South Lake's Jeff Demps took off for a 57-yard kickoff return and subsequent 9-yard touchdown run, putting South Lake on top 21-20. Springstead got the ball back with just over two minutes to drive 52 yards. After a couple of Mike King runs, two big Chris Ferguson catches and a 15-yard Seth Metz rumble, it was Beeker's turn again. Tim Maxwell stuffed Beeker at the 1 on his first attempt, but he rammed it in on the next play for the go-ahead touchdown with 28 seconds left. After the game, Springstead coach Bill Vonada got a slap on the back from nearly every passerby. Still, with all the slapping, his back probably wasn't as red as his cheeks. All the way on the other end of the field sat South Lake coach Charles Weem - alone under the goal post, the close-loss tormenting him.
"When you get blown out, it don't feel as bad as this," he said.
Rams snap skid
NEW PORT RICHEY - In a Class 4A, District 8 showdown, the host Ridgewood Rams rode the A-Train to a 33-6 victory against River Ridge. Sophomore Byronell Arline, "the Arline Express," notched his first career 200-yard performance with 219 yards on 23 carries, including touchdown runs of 74 and 12 yards in the second half.
The Rams (1-3) snapped a nine-game skid dating to last year. River Ridge (0-4) extended its losing streak to seven games.
After losing starting quarterback Charlie Minichino after the first series to a possible sprained knee, Ridgewood jumped on the scoreboard with just under three minutes left in the first quarter. Facing a fourth down from its 30, the Rams lined up to punt. As C.J. Hnilica got the kick away, a River Ridge player ran into him, resulting in a 15-yard penalty. A first down was awarded to the Rams, and on the ensuing play, Minichino's replacement, sophomore T.J. Haab found tight end Will Nichols. Nichols broke two tackles and streaked down the sideline for a 55-yard score.