INVERNESS - In soccer, momentum is a fickle as a candle in the wind.
During a 15-minute span midway through the first half of Wednesday night's Class 3A, District 7 rematch against Citrus at the Citrus Bowl, visiting Springstead poured in three goals by three different players: seniors Harry Bennett, Tyler Wendol and Frankie Fontan.
The trio of goals appeared to erect a commanding lead entering the intermission, 3-0.
Springstead's second-half defense - bolstered by the return of two midfielders, sophomore Tyler Arcidiacono (knee injury) and senior Tyler Toth (football), and led by 2013 All-County sweeper senior Jubin Thomas and junior goalie Matt McDuff - snuffed out a key Citrus flurry to win, 3-2.
With the victory, second-year mentor Warren Schmidt's crew climbed to a county-best 15-2-1 (14-1-0 3A-7) while CHS dipped to 12-3-1 (11-3-1 3A-7).
The win stretched the Mariner Boulevard crew's non-losing skein to nine matches, featuring eights wins and one draw.
Moreover, SHS snapped an eight-year jinx at the Citrus Bowl. The Eagles' last win in Inverness arrived Nov. 15, 2006, 1-0. Since the millennium, SHS improved to 11-7-2 lifetime over the Golden Hurricanes.
The Spring Hill crew's three-goal blitz quieted a Senior Night crowd attempting to celebrate the efforts of seven 'Canes seniors.
CHS, which handed SHS its lone district loss at Booster Stadium, 4-1, entered en fuego.
Veteran CHS skipper Steve Ekeli's crew arrived riding a season-high 12-match non-losing skein.
Since falling to archrival Lecanto on Nov. 7, 3-0, the 'Canes had enjoyed 11 wins and one tie.
Trailing 3-0, CHS got off the floor scoring six minutes into the second half.
The 'Canes came to life as junior Joe Kelly's assist led to the first of two goals by senior striker Jonathan Kreidenweis, 3-1.
Sixty seconds later, the 'Canes appeared poised to tilt the scoreboard.
Taking advantage of an Eagle penalty in the box, the 'Canes asked their leading scorer - senior Josh Marsden - to take the ensuing penalty kick.
According to Coach Ekeli, Marsden should be named the mailman. He always delivered with 26 goals - including never missing on his first 11 PK attempts.
But at 47:00, Marsden's low skimmer to the near post was stoned by McDuff.
CHS wasn't done. Though the ball glanced off McDuff's arms he instantly composed himself to block the ensuing rebound shot.
On the ensuing loose ball, an unidentified Citrus player aimed a diagonal shot toward the far post - which missed wide.
In three point-blank opportunities, CHS came up empty. That sequence of shots would end up haunting the hosts.
With just over three minutes remaining in the game, Marsden threaded a pass to Kreidenweis, who tucked in his second goal, but it was too little, too late as SHS prevailed.
"It's not like we had a lack of training during the break," explained Ekeli, the 'Canes third mentor in four seasons. "Everything they did to us in the first half was exactly what we did to them at their place."
In assessing the damage, "We didn't win the ball in the air. We probably lost 98 percent of all the 50/50 balls," lamented Ekeli. "We didn't work the ball inside-out like we have all season - when you add up all those things, it's a recipe for disaster."
Coach Ekeli pointed out that the 'Canes had several outstanding training sessions leading up to this game.
He boiled the difference to missed opportunities starting with the Marsden PK.
"That's his first missed PK all year," noted Ekeli. "In all the years I've been coaching, normally when you're down 3-0, you don't come back and win. But we made some adjustments and the momentum seemed to be on our backs.
"If Marsden scores at that point it's a 3-2 game and who knows what happens?" he added. "Now, we've got to play Nature Coast on Friday and get a positive result."
"The PK was huge," detailed the 16-year-old McDuff, who finished with three saves. "They were gaining momentum. Had that PK gone in I think things could have shifted."
Bennett opened the scoring at 17:45 blasting a 30-yard cannon on a feed from Fontan.
Fontan's career-best 20th assist led to Bennett's 18th goal of the season, 1-0.
The first of two Bennett assists led to Wendol's header and his 16th goal of the season, 2-0.
Five minutes later, Bennett's county-leading 23rd assist led to Fontan's county-high 35th goal of the season on another header.
The early offense left an impression with McDuff.
"Our first-half offense was phenomenal," said McDuff. "Harry and Frankie work so well together."
Bennett explained the difference between the first meeting and the rematch against CHS.
"I thought we went into that match a little too cocky," said the 17-year-old Bennett. "We really wanted this one. We knew we had to set the tone early."
On the key to the match, "Matt (McDuff) did an excellent job; he definitely helped us win this," said Bennett. "A lot of credit belongs to Coach Schmidt, too. We've made some adjustments."
Fontan thought McDuff stole the show.
"The plays he made are something he does all the time," summed up the 18-year-old Fontan. "Offensively, I thought we should have scored more in the first half.
"Tonight was a big win because it shows them they're not just going to walk all over us again," added Fontan.
Springstead 3, Citrus 2
SPG 3 0 --3
CIT 0 2-2
Goals - SPG: Bennett, Wendol, Fontan; CIT: Kreidenweis (2).
Assists - SPG: Bennett (2), Fontan; CIT: Kelly, Marsden.
Saves - SPG: McDuff (3), Wendol (0); CIT: Gruzdas (5).
Yellow Card - SPG: Ebanks (dissent); CIT: McGinnis (reckless endangerment).
Records - Springstead (15-2-1 overall; 14-1-0 3A-7); Citrus (12-3-1 overall, 11-3-1 3A-7)..