SPRING HILL – Despite the loss of six starters on offense, eight on defense and six key special teamers from last season’s historic 11-2 run, Springstead successfully swiped the ‘Wright’ passage Thursday from its veer-option playbook.
On the host Eagles’ initial offensive snap at 9:56 of the first quarter, senior fullback Daniel Wright burst up the middle and zigzagged to his left untouched for a 63-yard touchdown scamper against visiting Hudson.
The 5-foot-11, 181-pound Wright, who rushed for 1,186 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2013, added a pair of second-quarter touchdown runs, from 59 yards and one yard out, to finish with a game-high 140 rushing yards on nine attempts.
Wright set up Springstead’s final score with a 44-yard reception accounting for 184 total offensive yards as the Eagles blanked the Cobras in a fall classic at muggy Booster Stadium, 20-0.
School officials called the game at halftime due to a severe threat of lightning in the area.
The Mariner Boulevard team’s offensive line featured three returning starters, left tackle Hunter Hramika, left guard James Kern and center Austin Hampton, being joined by newcomers, right guard Donovan Giles and right tackle Dominic LaMagno.
The SHS O-line helped create a 201-33 differential in first-half offensive yards. A postgame Wright was quick to praise the big fellas in the trenches.
“Our O-line was tremendous tonight,” pointed out the two-time All-County running back. “I certainly couldn’t have done it without them. Our interior blocking went well and we got some big blocks on the outside, too.”
On what the exhibition game meant to the 17-year-old Wright, “Number one, that this game didn’t leave a bad taste in our mouths,” noted Wright. “It wasn’t perfect; there are plenty of things we can still clean up.”
On opening Season 39 next week at home against dangerous Citrus, “Next week is a different story and a different team,” said Wright. “We’ll start watching film tomorrow getting ready for a solid Citrus team.”
Hudson, which fell 37-0 to SHS last fall in Pasco County, was restricted to 33 offensive yards on 26 snaps (1.27 yards per play) across eight first-half possessions.
The Cobras suffered a game-high two turnovers as Hudson senior quarterback Joey Caruso (eight carries, 3 yards and 2-of-7 passing for 11 yards) had one errant shotgun formation snap sail over his head for a 26-yard loss that was recovered by senior linebacker Dylan McLeod.
McLeod, who notched eight solo tackles, also forced a fumble by stripping Caruso of the ball in front of the Cobra sideline as T.J. Owens recovered.
Hudson junior running back Billy Werner paced the visitors with 13 yards on six carries.
McLeod and first-year starter Zack Lawrence created the defensive damage.
“It was my first varsity start,” explained the 15-year-old Lawrence, with six solo tackles. “Sure, I was real nervous before the game. Tonight we did some good things, but we’ve also got to clean some things up.”
Lawrence commended his offense, adding, “Those (O-line) guys didn’t start off well, but they kept pushing the tempo. And what more can you say about Daniel? He’s the hardest-working guy on this team.”
“It felt good tonight,” said the 17-year-old McLeod. “I have to thank my Lord and Savior; he gets all the credit.
“Defensively, we had some silly mental errors, but those are something we can clean up. This one is over; we’ve got to get our heads right for next week.”
On Wright’s terrific efforts, “He is a really hard worker,” described McLeod, a 2013 All-County defender. “He’ll definitely have another great season, too.”
From the sidelines, second-year Eagle skipper Mike Garofano took exception with the team’s uncharacteristic five first-half penalties and one lost fumble.
“What do I take away from tonight?” he said. “We’ve got some stuff to clean up. Offensively, we shot ourselves in the foot with 3-4 procedure calls. The way we pound the football, we can’t have penalties; it’s got to get better.”
After handcuffing Hudson to less than two yards per snap, “Our speed is better than it’s been in a while, but we can get faster,” detailed Garofano, the county’s defending Coach of the Year. “I thought we gave up contain on their quarterback too many times.”
On the team’s positives, “It was good to see (middle backer) Conor (Ross, returning from a knee injury last season) back in there,” Garofano said. “I think Zack (Lawrence) will be a stud, he sure looked it tonight.
“And McLeod is such a great athlete,” added Garofano. “He can play anywhere. His value is very underestimated except outside of our locker room. He’s a third-year starter and starting to come into his own. He’s the total package.”
On Wright’s efforts, “He’s a pretty amazing guy,” said Garofano. “He got over 1,000 yards last year and everyone knows he’s going to see the football. Our offense goes as he goes. For us to be successful we’ll need his will and the offensive line to continue to develop. What I like most about Daniel is his feet never stop churning.
“I’m happy on how we competed. Winning is always good,” Garofano said. “But we’re striving for perfection. We faced a very scrappy Hudson team tonight that is very well-coached. You’ll see them make the playoffs again. My hat goes off to their coaching staff, they played hard.”
Springstead 20, Hudson 0 (Game called at halftime due to lightning)
Qtr. Scoring 1 2
HUD 0 0 --0
SPG 7 13 --0
SPG – D. Wright 63 run (Rae kick)
SPG – D. Wright 59 run (Koerick run fails).
SPG – D. Wright1 run (Rae kick).
First Downs 2 4
Atts./Rushing Yds. 19-22 18-153
Comp./Pass Atts./Int. 2-7-0 2-4-0
Passing Yds. 11 48
Total Offense 26-33 22-201
Fumbles/Lost 2-2 1-1
Return Yards 6-105 1-9
Punts/Avg. 5-29.2 3-30.3
Penalties 5-31 5-38