Springstead embarks on the 2014 season having set the bar higher than any team in county history.
The Eagles not only earned their second consecutive district championship, but they advanced all the way to the regional finals on the way to an 11-2 campaign.
That’s helped earn them respect around the state, as they are tied for 10th in the Class 6A preseason state poll released by the Associated Press on Wednesday.
A day earlier than the other county teams, Springstead will face Hudson at home for a preseason contest Thursday night at 7 p.m.
This contest will feature three quarters of varsity action followed by the JV squads in taking the field in the fourth quarter. It will be played under standard rules.
“Number one, we want to come out healthy,” Springstead head coach Mike Garofano said. “And we want guys to step up and get noticed. We want to see guys come to play.”
Though this does pit two playoff squads from a year ago – Hudson went 6-5 and finished as the Class 5A, District 7 runner-up – the intrigue for the Eagles will be under center.
With last season’s Hernando Today Player of the Year Tyler Mahla graduating after three years as the Eagles’ starting signal caller, the person who replaces him remains unclear.
Junior Victor Koerick will get the start, as he did in the spring when he went 2-of-4 for 37 yards and ran 13 times for 13 yards, though lost two fumbles and was picked off once.
Sophomores Sebastian Rivera and Jordan Wright are still in competition with Koerick for who will take the helm in next week’s season opener versus Citrus.
“Quarterback is up for grabs,” Garofano said. “We’ll see who takes a firm grip heading into Citrus. It (the starting competition) could be won or lost in Thursday’s game.
“It’ll be a really good test for us on the offensive side to see what quarterback is going to manage the offense best and protect the football. That guy who does that and makes the least amount of mistakes is going to win the job.”
As for the Cobras, Garofano said he spent two days game-planning for them simply for the sake of getting his players used to the routine. The two team exchanged film from their spring games.
In its third year under head coach Mark Kantor, a Springstead graduate, Hudson has gone from winning one game across 2010-11 to a solid program.
“They’ve got some good skill guys. They’re huge on the offensive line and they get after it on defense,” Garofano said. “They’re a playoff team from last year. It’ll be a good test for us.
“Anything I do, I want to win. I don’t want guys on my team that doesn’t care. I want guys that are hungry. I want winners, competitors who are going to want to win at everything they do.”