TARPON SPRINGS — Dante Satcher scored on three short runs, Countryside piled up nearly 500 total yards and the visiting Cougars left Tarpon Springs with a commanding 35-3 win.
“I've got to give Coach [Eric] Schmitz and the whole offensive staff a lot of credit,” said Countryside coach Jared Davis. “They did a great job with the game plan and we saw it come to fruition out here.”
The Cougars (5-1) wasted little time jumping on Tarpon Springs, going up 14-0 in the first quarter. Satcher scored the first of his TDs shortly after the Spongers (4-3) fumbled away possession on the night's third play from scrimmage.
“I was just running as hard as I can and doing whatever I can do to help the team,” Satcher said. “We were just trying to make a statement and show that we're still a top contender.”
“Dante's getting better every week,” Davis said of his improving junior tailback. “He's starting to run behind his pads, which has been a big emphasis for us. Those short yardage situations; we've got to be able to finish.”
The Cougars' balanced attack produced 195 yards on the ground and 285 through the air. Starting quarterback Robby Hicks (14 of 23 for 182 yards and a pick) exited in the third quarter after taking a hit on the Tarpon Springs sideline. Backup Trent Chmelik entered with a bang, tossing a 49-yard touchdown to Zach Laurinaitis on the first snap. Chmelik completed all five of his attempts for 103 yards and Laurinaitis hauled in five balls for 126 yards.
Chmelik, a sophomore, typically rotates into games for the C-Side offense this season to spell the senior starter. Hicks' departure was largely precautionary and shouldn't impact his availability for next week's huge Class 7A District 9 showdown with rival East Lake. Friday's victory did serve as a quality tune up, Hicks said.
“Every time we come out here and play Tarpon Springs it's a good physical battle with an intense rivalry, no matter what the score ends up being,” he said. “We had a lot of good help by the O-line. They worked their butts off and were able to create a pocket, the receivers got open and did their jobs and obviously Satcher scored three times. He did a great job hitting the holes. Mike Johnson, when he came in, he did a tremendous job for us.”
Similar to Chmelik, Johnson impacted the game immediately. His 45-yard touchdown run came on his first touch of the night and put C-Side up 14-0 in the first quarter.
Countryside also succeeded in taking full advantage of its opportunities. The Cougars scored touchdowns after both of Tarpon Springs' two turnovers and capitalized on a roughing the kicker call during a punt from their own 1 with a 13-play march into the end zone to get to the 35-3 final.
“You can't get a turnover and then not do something with it and expect to win games,” Davis said. “It's huge.”
Home-field advantage didn't seem to be in play this week for the Spongers. All three of those aforementioned misfortunes were disputable called that went Countryside's way.
Tarpon Springs' lone score came courtesy of Louis Zervos and his 35-yard field goal in the second quarter. That kick narrowed Countryside's lead to 14-3, but the Cougars took the second half's opening kick 80 yards on 17 plays to go up 21-3 and set the tone for the rest of the night.
After shutting out its past two opponents by a combined score of 94-0, the Cougars defense narrowly pulled off its third consecutive shutout. Led by defensive lineman Steven Czop, C-Side recorded five sacks, forced four punts and two turnovers on downs.
Tarpon Springs ran 17 fewer plays that Countryside while scratching out 183 yards on 51 snaps.
Senior Spongers quarterback Jarrett Battyanyi took snaps under center for the first time since Tarpon Springs' Sept. 6 win at Osceola. He split time with junior Brandon Casler and managed to produce the game's longest play from scrimmage with a 59 yard run that eventually set up Zervos' fifth converted field goal of the season.
The Spongers' run-first attack could not manage to find its consistency Friday, especially after falling behind by multiple scores so early on. Without factoring in sack yardage, Tarpon Springs put up 194 yards on the ground despite Michael Ford being limited to 43 on only12 carries.
Casler and Battyanyi combined to go 8 of 16 for 58 yards, with just two completions of 10 yards or more.
The Spongers did receive a notable impact performance defensively from DB Maurice Turner. The senior snatched his fifth interception of the season when he pulled down Hicks' pass in the right corner of the end zone and was also there to jump on a first-half fumble.
Tarpon Springs will hope to avert some potentially bad news in the coming days once linebacker Damarkus Jones' knee is further evaluated. The hard-hitting senior went down in pain while defending a pass in the second half and did not return.
Next week is a timely bye for the Spongers. Tarpon Springs is 2-0 in District 5A-8 play and its toughest competitor, Lakewood (4-2, 2-0), comes to town on Oct. 25.
CS - 14 – 0 – 14 – 7 --- 35
TS - 0 – 3 – 0 – 0 --- 3
CS – Satcher 48-yard run. PAT kick (Turowski) – 1st Quarter (10:39)
CS – M. Johnson 45-yard run. PAT kick (Turowski) – 1st Quarter (6:15)
TS– Zervos 35-yard FG. – 2nd Quarter (8:02)
CS – Satcher 1-yard run. PAT kick (Turowski) – 3rd Quarter (8:31)
CS – Laurinaitis 49-yard pass from Chmelik. PAT kick (Turowski) – 3rd Quarter (1:52)
CS – Satcher 3-yard run. PAT kick (Turowski) – 4th Quarter (4:18)
CS – Mi. Johnson (12-106, TD), Satcher (15-63, 3 TD), Hicks (7-21).
TS – Ford (12-43), Mo. Johnson (5-28), Battyanyi (10-37).
CS – Hicks (14-23 for 182, INT), Chmelik (5-5 for 103, TD).
TS – Casler (5-10 for 36), Battyanyi (3-6 for 22).
CS – Laurinitis (5-126, TD), Cole (4-38), Kimbrough (3-36, TD).
TS – Battyanyi (2-14), Wilcox (2-15), Mo. Johnson (2-11).