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Feel-good Eagles must pass early tests

Springstead's turnaround could be short-lived with four road games against playoff teams in the first half of the season.

By GREG AUMAN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 30, 2001


SPRING HILL -- In a box on Bill Vonada's desk sits a tape of the movie Remember the Titans. A must for any high school coach, it's a feel-good story about a group of players overcoming obstacles and coming together as a team.

A year ago, outsiders might have more readily associated the Springstead program with a movie like Titanic -- when you watched, you sympathized with everyone on board, thinking the outcome was inevitable.

This fall, however, the Eagles have moved past their own personal iceberg -- a losing streak that spanned three seasons and matched a school record with 16 consecutive defeats. After winning the final two games of last season and dominating their spring jamboree against Citrus, this could be a feel-good story where one might have expected another tear-jerker.

"The kids feel good about themselves. They're confident in the program we're running," Vonada said.

"Even when we're correcting mistakes, it's been very positive."

Vonada is hoping to get the entire campus more involved in the program -- on the first day of practice, "pride packs" were handed out, with new shorts and shirts to remind players that being a part of the football team was something to be proud of. Teachers and students can get similar shirts with "SUPPORT STAFF" written on the front, and Vonada hopes to see more red and blue in the stands at Booster Stadium this fall.

"We're trying to build as much support as we can," said Vonada, though his team will have to endure as difficult an opening month as can be imagined.

The schedule makers haven't been particularly supportive of the Eagles. Four teams on the North Suncoast made the playoffs last year, and Springstead will face all of them ... on the road ... in the first half of the season: Hernando, Crystal River, Land O'Lakes and Central.

"What's great about this crew is that they know we've got some tough games on the road, but none of them are like, 'Man, that's tough at the beginning, Coach,"' Vonada said. "They say, 'Oh, we open at Hernando. That's different.' Don't think everybody else hasn't talked about it. I've looked at it a thousand times. We'll worry about the opponent we're playing."

And Vonada doesn't see the road aspect of the stretch as being that big of a problem -- in the past three years, the Eagles have won more games on the road than they have at home.

"There are some really good teams we're playing, but they'd be just as good if we were playing them here," he said.

"It's not the same as if we're in college and it's Florida State and Florida in Tallahassee or Gainesville. It's not quite as big an advantage."

AT A GLANCE

COLORS: Blue, red and white

CLASS: Class 4A, District 6

PLAYOFF HISTORY: 1993, 1996

LAST APPEARANCE: Lost to Armwood 24-7

HEAD COACH: Bill Vonada

ASSISTANTS: Dan Garofano, Mike Garofano, Duke Hess, Terry Hoffman, John Reidel, Scott Simmons, Myron Smith, Craig Swartout, Frank Vitale

DIRECTIONS BOOSTER STADIUM: From S.R. 50 east of U.S. 19 and west of Brooksville, turn south on Mariner, school complex will be on left, about 1 mile north of Spring Hill Drive. From Spring Hill Drive east of of U.S. 19 and west of Brooksville, turn north on Mariner; school complex will be on right, about 1 mile north of Spring Hill Drive.

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