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Springstead's Mahla primed for new heights

Hernando Today correspondent

Published:   |   Updated: August 31, 2013 at 03:24 PM

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The Ol' Ball Coach - Steve Spurrier - pushed the envelope for quarterback play.

The former Heisman Trophy recipient was the first modern-day mentor to trust his offense to not just one signal caller, but two.

Most teams rally around one polarizing figure in the huddle - the starting quarterback.

Spurrier proved that a pair of solid quarterbacks could be more lethal than one. First-year Springstead head coach Mike Garofano couldn't agree more.

The Eagles have what most prep teams don't possess: two legitimate signal callers, both seniors, in Tyler Justin Mahla and Joe Jeffords.

By comparison, teams like Hernando and Nature Coast Technical have several starting quarterback candidates entering the season.

Problem is neither the Leopards nor Sharks has a pair of battle-tested varsity QBs vested on one mission: repeating as district champions.

If Jeffords were described like a soft drink he'd be a 7 Up - the un-cola.

At 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, Jeffords can befuddle an opposing defense. It's not because he can run a 4.3 40-yard dash or leap 32 inches off the ground or even bench press 300 pounds.

Jeffords brings the "X" factor. He can line up at quarterback, slotback, tailback or wide receiver, and be effective running, throwing or catching the ball.

Jeffords' multi-dimensional approach to the gridiron is a special blessing to the 6-foot-1, 150-pound Mahla.

Not only does Jeffords know where every player is supposed to line up prior to every offensive snap, he can bounce ideas off Mahla.

Mahla enters as a rare third-year starting quarterback. Yet in the Week 1 against Citrus at the Citrus Bowl, Coach Garofano could easily substitute Jeffords for Mahla without losing a beat.

Mahla has posted 13 varsity wins in 21 starts under center (62 percent) and been named as the All-County quarterback the past two seasons.

Despite being a two-way threat behind 1,245 career rushing yards for a 4.75 yards per carry average and 17 rushing touchdowns, he's completed 152-of-267 aerials (57 percent) for 1,858 yards and 13 touchdowns against 12 interceptions.

But stats don't concern Mahla; he says it's all about getting wins.

"Everyone knows playing quarterback is very tough. I'm fortunate because I've played the position my whole life," he said. "And I have tremendous coaches around me. I'm fortunate to have a battle every week in practice with Joey.

"Competition brings out the best in everyone, especially at quarterback," noted Mahla. "Joey is such a competitor he makes me strive to be better. I know our offense inside-out, but so does Joey - that helps a lot."

On what Mahla describes as the toughest part of his job, "I've always got to keep my head clear," he stressed. "There are a lot of distractions during a game. My job is to keep all the other guys calmed down and just play Springstead football."

Mahla's greatest asset, "It's got to be my great O-line," he emphasized. "Those guys have my back. I pity the guy who pulls a cheap shot on me or anybody else on our offense."

On the rare use of a two-quarterback system, "For me, this is tremendous. It gives the opposing defense just another thing to chew on," described Mahla. "Joey is many things to me. He's a friend, he's a teammate, he's a coach, he's a wide receiver, he's a running back and he knows where everyone is supposed to be.

"Playing quarterback is the only sport where you have to rely on 10 other guys to do their job, too," added Mahla. "This is not a selfish sport."

Mahla was raised as the third of four children to Spring Hill's J.P. and Kathy Mahla.

Though Mahla was born in New Port Richey, he's been raised since Day 1 in Spring Hill by pair of Eagle alumni.

Mahla traced his athletic roots to playing flag football at Veterans Memorial Park.

He played recreational-level football for the Screaming Eagles until he was 13 years old. In his first season with pads, he played tight end; since then he's always been calling cadence under the center.

Mahla also delved into hoops playing recreation basketball under the Hernando Athletic Association for one season at Central's High's gymnasium.

Once he arrived at Powell Middle School, Mahla played hoops as a seventh-grader for the Panthers.

On the gridiron, he played three seasons under Ron Blackwell. He was mostly regulated to playing fifth-quarter QB as a sixth-grader. In seventh grade, he played primarily at cornerback.

Finally as an eighth-grader he split time at quarterback and cornerback.

Upon matriculating to Springstead, Mahla again dabbled in JV hoops as a freshman and lifted weights as a sophomore.

At Booster Stadium, he earned a JV letter in football as a freshman. He did play in the Eagles' last three varsity tilts - including the stunning playoff victory at Wiregrass Ranch, 40-8.

After a 4-6 campaign as No. 1 quarterback in 2011, Mahla helped guide the Spring Hill gridders to a school-record nine straight wins en route to a 9-2 finish and the Class 6A, District 6 championship under skipper Bill Vonada.

Mahla, who has served in DECA Club as a sophomore and junior, carries a 2.6 grade point average into his senior season.

His favorite class is Sports Management and he aspires to become a sports photographer. Shooting video for, say, NFL Films is his ultimate dream.

Prior to opening the Eagles' 38th varsity season in Inverness, Mahla clearly understands the quarterback position is measured by weapons.

"We've got plenty of weapons with Latavious (Hannah), Kevin (Bedford), Danny (Wright), Brandon (Geiger), Tyler (Anderson) and Joey (Jeffords) - most of these guys have been here my entire time at Springstead," pointed out Mahla.

"I have tremendous confidence with these guys," he added. "We don't have guys that necessarily jump off a stat page, but we've got guys who are smart and can make a play."

On whether the SHS offense can duplicate last fall's gaudy numbers - 38 touchdowns and 288 total points - or 26.2 points per game, he said, "The key is our O-line. Those guys has been busting their humps since the spring; they're a young group overall. They've set high expectations.

"Our defense is so good, our O-line just from practicing against those guys every day will be so much better come game time," added Mahla. "Defense wins championships and those guys are no joke. Going against Jesse (Cowan) and Shane (Wiggins) definitely helps me out.

"What I like most is those guys (D-linemen) don't take plays off - that's because of Coach Garf's (Garofano's) influence - in the long run that'll help all of us improve."

On his seasonal goals, "I'll be honest, I don't have any set goals," admitted the 17-year-old Mahla. "I know I haven't done anything to be proud of. Stats really don't matter to me. All we're thinking about is the team winning one game at a time."

By the numbers: Springstead's Tyler Mahla (2010-12)

- Compiled by TONY CASTRO




2010 007 03 .429 031 01 00

2011 139 80 .576 947 05 06

2012 128 69 .539 880 07 06

TOTALS 267 152 .569 1,858 13 12



2010 005 033 6.60 00 16

2011 118 445 3.77 07 66*

2012 139 767 5.52 09 64 vs. MIT

TOTALS 262 1,245 4.75 17 66*

* Denotes touchdown



2012 02 45 22.5 00 28 @ ANC



2011 07 0 0/1 0 0 42

2012 09 0 0 0 0 54

TOTALS 16 0 0/1 0 0 96

2013 Springstead Eagles Roster

No. Name Pos. Yr Hgt Wgt

2 Latavious Hannah RB/DB Sr 5-8 145

3 Jordan Rivera LB Sr 5-6 155

5 Kevin Bedford RB Sr 5-7 170

7 Robert Holdway LB Jr 5-8 158

8 Tyler Toth WR/FS Sr 6-2 165

9 Juan Espinosa RB/LB Jr 5-8 156

10 Alex Joll QB Jr 5-8 138

11 Tyler Anderson TE Sr 6-3 202

12 Brandon Geiger WR Sr 5-11 170

14 Joe Jeffords QB Sr 5-11 170

15 Tyler Mahla QB Sr 6-0 155

18 Richard McCabe DB Sr 6-0 160

22 Malcolm Fitts FB/LB Sr 5-6 183

23 Luca Perego LB Jr 5-10 158

25 Brian Rae DB Jr 6-0 150

27 Jarett Thurmond RB/CB So 5-9 139

28 Dylan McLeod LB Sr 5-7 175

30 Conor Ross LB Jr 5-10 192

32 Daniel Wright RB/LB Jr 5-10 167

33 Jared Hargett WR So 5-10 170

44 Jake Lewandowski LB So 5-7 176

45 Eric Stevens DL Sr 6-1 187

46 Austin Stock LB Sr 5-10 190

48 Julian Escoda OL/LB Jr 5-11 167

51 Shane Wiggins DL Sr 6-0 205

53 Austin Hampton OL Jr 5-9 198

54 Evan Pennington OT Jr 6-1 258

55 Jesse Cowan OL/DL/LB Sr 6-0 230

61 Jameson Peppe OL Sr 5-10 210

63 Chase Laviolette CT/RG Jr 5-8 183

67 Michael Miara RT Sr 5-11 278

68 Nathan Kocolowski OL/DL Jr 5-10 182

70 Daniel Kale OL Jr 5-10 160

72 Thomas Jarrell OL Jr 6-0 200

73 James Kern OL Jr 6-0 208

74 Jarren Jones TE/DL Sr 6-4 220

75 Hunter Hramika OL/DL So 6-3 285

77 Dominic Lamagno OT/DL So 5-11 220

99 Travis O'Neil DL Sr 6-1 210

Head coach: Mike Garofano (1st Year)

Assistant coaches: Dustin Kupcik, J.P. Mahla, Mike McLeod, Frank Vitale, Frank Hynes and John Hogeland.          

2013 Springstead Eagles Schedule

Date Opponent Site Time

8-30 Citrus Away 7:30 p.m.

9-6 Weeki Wachee Away 7:30 p.m.

9-13 Nature Coast Away 7:30 p.m.

9-20 Sunlake* Home 7:30 p.m.

9-27 Tampa-Berkeley Prep Home 7 p.m.

10-4 Fivay* Away 7:30 p.m.

10-11 Central* (Homecoming) Home 7:30 p.m.

10-18 Bye

10-25 Mitchell* Home 7:30 p.m.

11-1 Land O' Lakes* Away 7 p.m.

11-8 Hernando Home 7:30 p.m.

* Denotes Class 6A, District 6 game

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