Hernando County boys soccer was dominated by the presence of Springstead's 'Dynamic Duo' of seniors Harrison "Harry" Bennett and Frank "Frankie" Alexander Fontan.
The tandem was responsible for rewriting the Springstead record book this winter.
Year 34 of Eagle futbol at the Mariner Boulevard campus included the school's fifth straight Hernando County title and a championship in the first-ever Hernando County Coaches Cup at Hernando High.
Despite smothering its county brethren by a combined 28-0-1 count over the past four winters, heavily favored and top-seeded SHS faded at the finished line by not reaching the final of the Class 3A, District 7 Tournament at Weeki Wachee.
Instead, archrival Nature Coast Technical earned its first-ever series win in a decade over the Spring Hill booters in a bitterly cold 3A-7 semifinal, 2-1.
That season-ending upset spoiled the continuation of a blistering pace set by the playmaker Bennett and the finisher Fontan.
Up to this winter, no Springstead player had ever managed to climb over the 20-assist barrier set by Bobby Colon (2000-01) and tied by Devin Shaw (2003-04).
Both Fontan (with 22 assists) and Bennett (25) each eclipsed that school standard.
With Bennett's assistance, Fontan achieved what no Eagle booter had ever achieved in a single season.
Fontan forged 41 goals and 104 total points superseding the previous efforts of Sunshine Athletic Conference Player of the Year Jason Taylor (1995-96) and Gulf Coast Athletic Conference's POYs Stephen Bates (2000-01), Jordan Magrini (2002-03) and even Shaw (2003-04).
After leading the local circuit in scoring for a second straight winter, Fontan finished with a school-record 65 goals across four seasons (Bates graduated in 2001 with 64 career goals) and a school-record 168 career points (Bates finished with 145 points).
Was it any wonder the 5-foot-7, 135-pounder was tabbed as this winter's Hernando Today Boys Soccer Player of the Year?
Area coaches praised his efforts.
"When you have that kind of rare combination of determination and drive - you'll get a player like Frankie," explained SHS' second-year skipper Warren Schmidt. "As a coach, when you have a guy who has a nose for the goal and is extremely gifted, then you use him as best you can. The kid can put the ball on frame. Without a guy like Frankie, we would have to go to a more possession-type approach."
On Fontan's biggest strength, "His biggest asset was his ability to draw 2-3 defenders to him. And the kid wasn't selfish, he'd get the ball to his teammates for the best shot, otherwise he'd go 1 v.1," replied Schmidt, whose last two teams have combined for a county-best 31-8-3, but haven't sniffed a district final. "Another thing I enjoyed about Frankie was there was never any back talk."
"First and foremost, Frankie is a respectable young man," added former Eagle alumnus and NCT's fifth-year mentor Ian Wald. "He combines tremendous athletic ability with a good work ethic. That combination hoisted the Springstead team on his back. He's extremely talented and put up some incredible numbers this year."
"Frankie is a great player. He's super-fast and finishes his chances. He and Harry complemented each other real well," emphasized Hernando High's fifth-year skipper Andy Suarez. "You could tell those two have played together for years. What Frankie and Harry displayed is something coaches can't teach - there was great chemistry there."
"In a word, Frankie was relentless," insisted Weeki Wachee coach Shane Tarbox. "The last thing I wanted to see was him getting to the final third of the field with the ball at his feet. He and Bennett were so dangerous."
Reached at a local track and field meet, the 18-year-old Fontan reacted to to the POY announcement.
"I kind of thought it would be between me and Harry. I'm so happy right now," he said.
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Frankie was born the older of two sons in Spring Hill to Ernie and Rita Fontan.
His athletic roots stem from participating at the local Hernando County Family YMCA in Spring Hill beginning at 5.
For three years with the YMCA, Fontan played baseball - mostly as a center fielder and second baseman - and soccer, as a forward.
At 8, Fontan ratcheted his involvement playing for Spring Hill Dixie Baseball for the next six seasons at the Anderson Snow Park Sports Complex.
When baseball season concluded, he'd store his glove and bat and play soccer for the Hernando Heat. Fontan followed that pattern from 9 years old until this past season.
After his junior year, Fontan played his club ball with a West Pasco County team.
In middle school at Challenger K-8, Fontan utilized one of his biggest assets - his deft speed.
Competing as a sprinter, Fontan excelled in the 100 and 200 meters and 4x100 relay for the Navigators as a seventh- and eighth-grader.
"I loved baseball, too" pointed out Fontan. "But I got hurt as a freshman. The doctor told me I had bulging discs in my back and I couldn't play anything for six months.
"It was awful not playing anything," recalled Fontan. "Watching everyone else out there didn't help."
In cataloging his Springstead memories, interestingly it's not the goals and assists that stand out.
"Winning districts as a sophomore (with skipper Sal Calabrese's 19-3 squad) is still my greatest memory," he said. "Winning a regional quarterfinal was something. What I remember most about that team was we were two-deep at every position and we were all friends on the team. We all hung out together - we had great chemistry."
Fontan holds no regrets after his last two teams were ended in the district semis by Ocala-Vanguard and NCT.
"Last year, I felt we had a chance to beat Vanguard, but they were the favorites," Fontan said. "This year, we were the favorites, but Nature Coast played a helluva game against us. Maybe they wanted it a little more than we did. But at the end of the day, we still had a great season."
As far as misgivings, "When we opened the season, I know I wanted another district title. I remember we lost in overtime as freshmen (to Central, 2-1)," he recalled. "As the season went, the goals kept piling up and I wondered if I could keep this up."
Looking at his school records, "They were big achievements," noted Fontan. "I had always looked up to Matt (Campbell) for so many years. To beat his records was something."
Fontan believes his Springstead experience has prepped him for the rigors of college ball.
"The Springstead experience has definitely helped," pointed out Fontan. "I'm fortunate to have played on the most competitive program in Hernando. It was great fun. I owe a lot to the guys, they push each other here."
After peering into the mirror, the veteran Eagle striker admits, "I see myself as a fast player. I'm shorter than most of the guys I play against, but so was Matt (Campbell). Being a little guy, I have to push even harder for my goals. I'll do whatever it takes to win."
On his scoring mentality, "Any time I get the ball, if I see another player (with a better scoring opportunity), I'll dish it," he said. "A lot of my assists went to either Harry or (Tyler) Wendol."
In the classroom, Fontan carries a fine 3.4 grade point average and sites his government class as his favorite.
At this point he foresees a future as a physical therapist.
He's narrowed his choices for college to the USF, Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton and Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers.
"I definitely want to keep playing - that's my No. 1 goal," noted Fontan. "If I go to USF, I'll probably just go there to study. My grades are important. I kind of pride myself in getting As and Bs."
Fontan took a moment to send a card of thanks, saying, "I have to thank my family for all the travel expenses involved in taking me here and there to tournaments, and I have to thank my teammates for being so supportive.
"I have to personally thank Harry. He was a great teammate," added Fontan. "We had perfect chemistry. I know deep down I wouldn't have had my success without him."
On the Fontan legacy, "It's a combination of things," he replied. "I'd like to be remembered as a great teammate. And I'd love to be remembered for the things me and Harry and all my teammates accomplished on the pitch."
By the numbers: Springstead's Frankie Fontan
- Compiled by TONY CASTRO
YEAR G A TP
2010-11 1 0 2
2011-12 5 3 13
2012-13* 18 13 49
2013-14*$ 41# 22 104#
TOTALS 65# 38 168#
# Denotes school record.
* Denotes All-County selection.
$ Denotes Hernando Today Player of the Year.