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By BRANT JAMES
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 20, 2001
SPRING HILL -- The prize was only slightly spiffier for Springstead, but the wrapping was shinier.
Led by two goals from senior Stephen Bates, the Eagles dominated Central 4-0 Friday to clinch the second seed in the Class 2A, District 8 tournament. Springstead (10-3-2 overall, 8-3-1 in 2A-8) would face Mitchell in the first round if the current standings hold while Central (9-4-3, 8-3-1), relegated to third, would meet Hernando.
That's not a tremendous difference, but Springstead can feel much better about itself with just two regular-season games remaining.
The Eagles remained sharp and passed the ball well for most of the game.
"That's what we've been working on, possessing the ball and knocking it around," Eagle coach Sal Calabrese said. "That's attractive soccer. That's what you have to do to win. You can't play kickball."
Central, meanwhile, was shut out for the second consecutive night and had no offense other than booting the ball long and hoping forward Dave Bernard could run it down. The Bears, who lost to Lecanto 1-0 on Thursday, played kickball.
"We're definitely not doing what we did earlier in the season, which was possessing the ball," Central coach John Andruss said.
Central and Springstead tied 1-1 on Dec. 11.
Bates gave Springstead its game-winner with 14:52 left in the first half when he blasted a direct kick taken just outside of the box by goaltender Matt Berger.
With 37 seconds left in the half, reserve Ian Haselbarth ran onto a pinpoint pass from Greg Emmerman and flicked a shot over the sliding keeper.
Bates abused Central on another restart with about 30 minutes left in the game, angling a free kick from 35 yards to the left of the goal over Berger and into the top right corner. Bates' 20th goal of the season gave Springstead a 3-0 lead.
Calabrese said he was worried about a concentration lapse after taking the three-goal lead, but his team did not disappoint.
Springstead was whistled for three fouls within a minute because of flailing elbows or feet but avoided committing any card infractions or fouls near the goal.
Springstead goaltender Dan Calabrese faced only 13 shots but stopped the Bears' two most serious attempts during the last 18 minutes.
With 17:51 left, he absorbed a 10-yard rip from Tim Woods, and with nine minutes left, he missed a sliding attempt at a long feed but kept his body upright and tipped away a Bernard shot.
Calabrese had not made a save until eight minutes remained in the first half, when a strong tail wind carried a Berger punt on goal. The sophomore finished with seven saves. Berger made four saves on 14 shots.
Emmerman capped Springstead's scoring with 3:05 left when Ricky Bennett pushed him the ball wide and the sophomore dribbled in close and rolled a shot between Berger and the right post.