Eagles and Leopards of the same mind-set

Springstead and Hernando are both coming off tough stretches of losses, so just getting that win trumps beating a county foe.

Published October 6, 2006

SPRING HILL - One by one, the vehicles rolled up to the practice field at Springstead High. And, one by one, they waited.

Parents. Siblings. An intrepid reporter.

For one evening, they were all on Bill Vonada time.

"Sorry we kept you waiting," the Eagles coach said after practice finally concluded Wednesday evening. "We had some things we had to get done."

Afterward, wide receiver Jeff Haynes had one thing to say about the lengthy session.

"We deserved it," the senior said.

They don't take losses lightly at Springstead, and the losses have been many this year. At other schools, a 2-3 record might not sound atrocious. But for the Eagles, who have dominated county football the past few seasons, mediocrity is hardly acceptable.

Last Friday's 31-13 loss to Tarpon Springs dropped Springstead's record below .500 for the first time since it started the 2002 season 0-5. The Eagles have more defeats than they did in either 2004 or 2005, and one more will ensure them their worst record since 2002.

So if you are wondering how much Springstead has to play for in tonight's nondistrict game against Hernando, you can stop.

"We need to get things going in the right direction," Vonada said. Which adds a level of intrigue to tonight's matchup, particularly when considering Hernando's position.

Since a blowout win over Central in the season opener, the Leopards have lost four straight, including a 13-7 defeat to previously winless Crystal River last week.

Hernando, like Springstead, is coming off a disappointing district loss. And, like Springstead, it desperately needs a win.

"It's huge for our kids," said Hernando coach Matt Smith, who graduated from Springstead. "Right now, any win is huge."

For Hernando, the biggest objective tonight is to stop its four-game slide. But there also is a conference title at stake.

Though the Leopards are disappointed with their performance over the first half of the season, a win over Springstead could put them in the driver's seat for a county title.

Hernando hasn't defeated its cross-county rival since 2002. A win this year would push its county record to 2-0.

"I don't think it will matter who the opponent is," Smith said. "I think our kids are just hungry for a win. But the fact that it is a county game, that adds something."

Springstead also seems more concerned about getting a win instead of beating a county opponent.

"We want to get back on the winning track," Eagles wide receiver Jason Haynes said.

Both teams have big district games on the horizon. Springstead faces a Central team that will likely have a chance at clinching its first district title since 2001. Meanwhile, Hernando takes on Lecanto.

But neither coach seems concerned about overlooking its opponent.

"At this point," Vonada said, "I hope we wouldn't be looking past one practice."