TARPON SPRINGS — “Win the play.” Those three simple words have been drilled into the minds of each and every Tarpon Springs High football player since springtime. Look down at any condensed wristband playbook and there the mantra is, staring right back. After watching last year’s promising 3-1 start deteriorate into a 3-7 finish, instilling a deeper focus and determination from horn to horn is a priority for Head Coach Ron Hawn.
“One play at a time, all season long,” he said shortly after watching his Spongers handily defeat Anclote High in last week’s Kickoff Classic, 28-3. “That’s all we’re going to do. ‘Win the play.’ ” Even though last Friday’s win came during an exhibition, that mentality seemed to bear out on the field. Tarpon Springs went up early and took a 14-0 lead into halftime. Rather than allowing complacency to set in, the Spongers continued to control the game after returning from the locker room. During last year’s downward spiral, periodic lapses turned a couple potential wins into deflating defeats. Featured running back Michael Ford recalled one of those games following his 117-yard performance Friday night. “I was thinking about last year how we were up big in the first half and lost to Northeast,” he said, speaking of the Spongers’ 41-37 home loss to the team from St. Petersburg that started the season-ending, six-game skid. “So I didn’t want a repeat of that. I just wanted to run the ball hard. “Coach Hawn says take one play at a time and win every play, and that’s what we try to do so we don’t look to the future. We stay with what’s happening now.” Come Friday night, that “now” moment will be kicking off the regular season against Clearwater High on the road. Another positive showing will provide extra confidence to a team playing with a bit of an edge this season. “We’ve got a chip on our shoulder this year,” said outside linebacker Damarkus Jones, provider of three sacks last week. “A lot of people are doubting us saying we don’t have as much talent as everybody else, but when we get together as a team, we’re working.”