It will be a first for Sunlake coach Bill Browning when he travels to his old stomping grounds at Spring Hill Springstead on Friday as his Seahawks (2-0) take their undefeated record against the Eagles (3-0) in the opening of Class 6A-District 6 play.
Browning, who compiled a 49-43 record in nine seasons at Springstead and also led the Eagles to the school's first postseason appearance in 1993, will have one goal in mind and that's figuring out how to slow down a surprising Eagles bunch that has racked up impressive victories over Ridgewood (48-0), Fivay (38-0) and Anclote (28-21).
"The big thing is really its more important for the team then it is for me," Browning said. "(Springstead) return many of their starters back from last year. They're a seasoned bunch over there at Springstead. It will definitely bring back memories when I go back there. Size wise, they have some very good size. Their offensive line gets off the football very well. We have to stay away from turnovers and breakdowns on special teams."
Turnovers were a cause for concern for the Seahawks in their last game against Wiregrass Ranch. Though Sunlake won the game, 17-12, Browning's club fumbled the football away eight times and seemed unlike themselves throughout the second half. Some key players that have stepped up this season are Sunlake running back Eddie Burgos (344 yards, four TDs) and quarterback Josh Zifer (168 yards passing, 126 yards rushing).
"Coach Browning always does a great job with his kids," Springstead coach Bill Vonada said. "I know they've lost a lot of guys from last year, but now they have re-loaded quickly and giving Browning two weeks to prepare I think is pretty big as well. Certainly we are going to have to perform at the top of our game to compete."
Being an optimist, Browning saw the second half against the Bulls as a good learning experience for a Sunlake team that lost several key starters from last year's playoff team.
"We've put forth the effort to correct our mistakes from a couple weeks ago against Wiregrass Ranch," Browning said. "The second half against Wiregrass Ranch was a good learning experience and will help our young players in the future."
Tight games will be almost guaranteed from here on out as the Seahawks reach district play that features playoff contenders Brooksville Hernando, Brooksville Nature Coast, Land O' Lakes, Mitchell and River Ridge, all vying for two postseason berths in 6A-6.
Some feel that this may be a do-or-die game for the Seahawks if they look to return to the postseason, but Browning doesn't appear that it'll make or break the season so early in the campaign.
"Everyone wants to win their first district game," Browning added. "The loser of this contest is not out of it by any means in the district, but we certainly do not want to lose our first district game."