BY TONY CASTRO
SPRING HILL – Under plunging 49-degree temperatures and a stiff easterly breeze, Springstead’s two-game slide to open the New Year never morphed into three in a row Thursday at Booster Stadium against visiting Fivay.
Instead, Hernando County’s leading scorer, senior Matt McDuff, took over on Senior Night.
McDuff, who scored twice in Wednesday night’s loss at Inverness against 3A-7 leader Citrus, tallied single goals in each half and distributed a key assist to help even the regular season series against the Falcons, 3-1.
Back-to-back district setbacks this week to Central (3-2) and Citrus (4-2), dropped the Eagles
(9-4-3 3A-7, 9-5-2 overall) into third-place tie in the district standings with Fivay (8-5-2 3A-7, 10-7-2 overall) until Thursday‘s rescheduled rematch.
The match was originally scheduled for Dec. 18, but no game officials arrived.
McDuff, who entered with 17 goals and seven assists, dented the scoreboard initially at 25:49 on a cross from junior Maximiliano Andreu, that ricocheted off the far left post and into the back of the net.
At 41:50, sophomore Alex Bauer fed McDuff for his second goal of the game, 2-0 Eagles.
Six minutes later the visitors snapped the Eagles’ shutout bid as Fivay senior Jacob Hindman connected with junior striker Aaron Witeck to cut the lead in half.
Though FHS out-shot the Eagles, 15-7, the Falcons couldn’t again solve starting goalie Chandler Hatcher (9 saves) or his backup Jack Watson (4 saves) across the final 20 minutes of play.
At 57 minutes, McDuff threaded a pass to wide-open teammate, freshman Suly McAdam, to close the scoring, 3-1.
“Tonight, we weren’t as aggressive as we usually are,” explained FHS skipper Linda McQuade. “We were a little sluggish because of last night (a 1-1 draw against archrival Hudson).”
McAdam was ecstatic tallying his first varsity goal in his first-ever varsity game.
“I played JV all season until tonight. Scoring that goal tastes pretty good,” beamed the 14-year-old McAdam. “McDuff gave me a great pass.”
On the Eagles’ turnaround, “On those two earlier losses, we weren’t taking things seriously; we were too cocky,” confessed the 17-year-old McDuff. “The difference tonight was we came together tonight and played much more like a team.
“I scored a couple times, but I couldn’t have scored with two terrific through balls.”
Springstead 3, Fivay 1
FIV 0 1—1
SPG 1 2—3
Goals – FIV: Witeck; SPG: McDuff (2), McAdam.
Assists – FIV: Hindman; SPG: Andreu, Bauer, McDuff.
Shots on goal – FIV: 15, SPG: 7.
Saves – FIV: Derner (2), SPG: Hatcher (9), Watson (4).
Yellow Card – FIV: Coleman (dissent), Hindman (persistent infringement); SPG: McDuff (unsporting behavior).
Records – Fivay (8-5-2 3A-7, 10-7-2 overall), Springstead (9-4-2 3A-7, 9-5-2 overall).