INVERNESS - For the second week in a row, the Citrus Bowl became a house of horrors for a Hernando County squad.
Just as Nature Coast fell to host Citrus High in last week's preseason classic, 47-7, Springstead could do little, at least in the first half, to keep the Hurricanes from putting their arsenal on display.
Citrus connected through the air, rumbled on the ground and forced the Eagles into uncharacteristic mistakes en route to an impressive 42-14 triumph in Friday's regular-season opener.
"Citrus is a real good team," Springstead head coach Mike Garofano said. "They took it to Nature Coast last week, they took it to us today. They're physical, they're fast, they're athletic, they're everything I guess you want your team to be, that's what they were.
"They're solid. They're going to win a bunch of games this year."
The Eagles, coming off a 9-2 season and a district championship in 2012, are expected to do their fair share of winning, as well.
But on this night, Garofano's official debut as headman, they didn't resemble last year's squad or even the one that eased past Hudson in the preseason, 28-0.
Garofano has talked about continuing to play the classic Springstead football established under previous head coach Bill Vonada, meaning limiting penalties and winning the turnover battle.
Technically turnovers were a wash, with each team totaling four. However, the 'Canes lost three fumbles in the fourth quarter after they had already built a 42-0 advantage.
Citrus was flagged more times, 10-7, but Springstead piled up more yardage, 90-64.
"I think mainly they took us out of it because they were more physical in the first half," Garofano said. "I'm proud of the way we played in the second half. They didn't sub any guys out or anything like that. We won the second half, starters against starters. So that's something to build on for next week.
"For one reason or another we didn't come to play in the first half. They came out like a buzz saw and took it to us and we were just kind of catching instead of attacking. We'll learn from the film and start looking ahead toward next week."
The 'Canes initially dented the scoreboard when Breon Whaley bounced to the left side and found the end zone at the 3:03 mark of the first quarter. A two-point attempt failed, leaving it 6-0.
Then in the second quarter, Citrus dominated behind a four-touchdown outburst.
Quarterback Deion Moore broke a few tackles weaving through the middle of the field for a 14-yard scoring rush with 7:51 to go in the half.
Nearly two minutes later, he cashed in on a Springstead fumble the previous play by hitting Desmond Franklin in stride down the right sideline for a 40-yard touchdown pass.
Jesse Vineyard added a 4-yard rushing touchdown and James Pouncey returned an interception 29 yards to pay dirt with 52.8 seconds left in the half.
That made it 33-0 at the intermission. It became 35-0, initiating a running clock, less a minute into the fourth quarter thanks to an intentional grounding call in the end zone.
Citrus needed two plays on the ensuing drive to complete its scoring, on Pouncey's 42-yard scamper.
"I think we played great in the first half, once we got the offense going a little bit," Citrus head coach Rayburn Greene said. "They came out strong against our run game and we had to open up the offense a little bit just to loosen things up.
"I thought we played great at times and other times it was an up-and-down night for us. Give credit to Springstead. They're well-coached, they're tough, they didn't quit."
Greene talked about controlling the Eagles' option attack, and the 'Canes did limit Springstead to 175 yards of total offense.
"We just focused on hitting the quarterback and the fullback," Greene said. "They don't pitch the ball a lot so that removes a dangerous element to the option. So you're just focusing on two guys instead of three.
"We really focused on trying to stop (quarterback) Tyler Mahla and the other backs that they have back there. Just really not let him beat us was our biggest focus tonight. He's a fine player. Fortunately we made enough plays to win the football game."
The senior Mahla did have a 4-yard scoring rush in the closing minutes, and ran 19 times for 84 yards. He completed 5-of-14 passes for 62 yards and was picked twice.
Junior Daniel Wright, the fullback, posted 19 yards on 12 carries before leaving the game with a minor injury in the third quarter.
Kevin Bedford ran it in from a yard out with 3:16 to go to account for the Eagles' other touchdown.
Springstead will try to regroup for next Friday's game at Weeki Wachee, the first-ever meeting between the two teams in the regular season.
"It can only help us," Garofano said of playing Citrus. "I don't know if we'll see a better team on our schedule. Their speed, the way they played and how they came out physically I think will be unmatched by any team that we have on our schedule. So it's only going to make us better, it'll make us tougher, and we'll learn from the film what we did in the first half.
"And like I said before, the first three games are preseason games. We're about the first three games trying to figure out what we are, who we are, what we have, and coming out the district home opener against Sunlake with all guns a' blazing."
Citrus 42, Springstead 14
Qtr. Scoring 1 2 3 4
SPG 0 0 0 14 - 14
CIT 6 27 0 9 - 42
CIT - Whaley 11 run (Vineyard run failed)
CIT - Moore 14 run (Flaherty kick)
CIT - D. Franklin 40 pass from Moore (Flaherty kick)
CIT - Vineyard 4 run (Flaherty kick no good)
CIT - Pouncey 29 interception return (Flaherty kick)
CIT - Safety (Intentional grounding in end zone)
CIT - Pouncey 42 run (Flaherty kick)
SPG - Mahla 4 run (Toth kick)
SPG - Bedford 1 run (Toth kick)
First Downs 11 15
Atts./Rushing Yds. 39-113 38-232
Comps./Pass/Atts/Int. 5-14-2 7-10-0
Passing Yds. 62 127
Total Offense 53-175 48-359
Return Yds. 8-139 2-5
Punts/Avg. 3-39.0 1-44.0
Fumbles/Lost 3-2 5-4
Penalties 7-90 10-64