LAND O’ LAKES — Land O’ Lakes’ 3-3-5 defense was bound and determined not to allow the Florida Athletic Coaches Association’s District 10 MVP, Springstead senior quarterback Tyler Mahla, to get untracked.
Mahla, who arrived with nearly 4,500 career rushing and passing yards, was held to a season-low 42 yards and 16 carries during Friday night’s game. In addition, the Land O’ Lakes defense turned heads by recovering three Eagles fumbles.
But the Gators (7-2, 2-2 Class 6A-District 6) had no answer for Springstead junior FB Daniel Wright as the Eagles won, 34-21.
Wright, who arrived with 610 rushing yards, gashed the Gators with 178 yards on 28 carries, featuring three touchdowns — 9, 2 and 4 yards — lifting the Eagles (8-1, 4-0) to their second district championship in two years.
Mahla, who clicked on 3 of 3 passing for 31 yards, added his school-record 15th rushing touchdown of the season on a 1-yard dive over center Austin Hampton in the third quarter.
Senior Kevin Bedford and Wright each overcame uncharacteristic fumbles. Bedford finished with 62 yards and his fourth TD of the season (21 yards).
Place-kicker Tyler Toth converted 4 of 5 point-afters while the Eagles’ defense forced three Gator turnovers.
Land O’ Lakes was led by 6-foot-6 junior QB James Pensyl.
Pensyl connected on a game-high 21 of 40 passes for 293 yards and two TDs — both to junior WR Ethan Weilant (15, 23 yards).
Pensyl added his team-leading fifth rushing score from 7 yards out with 4:31 left in the game.
LOL’s upset chances soured when place-kicker Andy Dowler misfired on three field goal attempts (30, 48, 21 yards) and SHS survived a first-and-goal at the Eagle 1 behind a tremendous goal line stand early in the third quarter.
Springstead 7 14 7 6 — 34
Land O’ Lakes 7 0 7 7 — 21
SPG – Wright 9 run (T. Toth kick)
LOL– Weilant 15 pass from Pensyl (Dowler kick)
SPG – Wright 2 run (T. Toth kick)
SPG – Bedford 21 run (T. Toth kick)
LOL– Weilant 23 pass from Pensyl (Dowler kick)
SPG – Mahla 1 run (T. Toth kick)
SPG – Wright 4 run (kick failed)
LOL – Pensyl 7 run (Dowler kick)