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Spongers stuff Eagles

By JOHN SCHWARB

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 3, 2001


EAST LAKE -- For East Lake, the biggest game of the year turned into an air show. In other words, a horror show.

EAST LAKE -- For East Lake, the biggest game of the year turned into an air show. In other words, a horror show.

The key battle of the 2001 installment of Pinellas County's best rivalry figured to be the powerful East Lake option against the stifling Tarpon Springs defense, but that turned out to be a misnomer.

It was no battle at all, as Tarpon won 14-0 before 4,600 fans and ruined East Lake's homecoming.

The Spongers snuffed out the Eagles' rushing attack completely, holding rushers to 28 yards on 22 carries, but even worse, they made quarterback Dan Gale throw 22 times.

"We were forced to throw, and I hate to be forced to throw," East Lake coach Tom Keeler said. "Offensively, we just couldn't do our thing. I knew (Tarpon) was pretty good on defense, but they were better than I thought they were."

In the annual cross-town rivalry, defense and special teams usually win in low-scoring games, and Friday was no different. In addition to playing great defense, Tarpon (8-2) got a 91-yard kickoff return from Roshawn Marshall to start the second half, and that was more than enough to win the showdown for the 10th time.

East Lake (5-5) is now 0-6 at home all-time against Tarpon.

In the second quarter, Tarpon got on the board with a 1-yard quarterback sneak from Anthony Houllis, completing a six-minute, 61-yard drive. East Lake helped with two encroachment penalties, and Jeremy Saunders provided the big play with a 22-yard run.

The senior running back was Tarpon's most effective weapon, running for 118 yards on 24 carries.

Starting the second half, East Lake did not deviate from its game plan of giving no special treatment to Marshall on kicks. After all, Keeler said, the Eagles had put about 70 percent of their kickoffs in the end zone during the season.

But this one did not get in the end zone. Marshall caught the ball at the 9, hit the hole, came out the other end and was gone.

"I hadn't got a kick return (for a score) all year, and coach (Don Davis) told me before the game that big-time players come up in big-time games," Marshall said. "This is the Super Bowl to me."

Gale, East Lake's lone offensive hope with its running game neutralized, completed seven of 22 passes and had three interceptions. He was sacked five times.

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