TARPON SPRINGS -- Lakewood Ranch rebounded from a lopsided loss to Palmetto but holding off a furious Tarpon Springs rally on Friday in Class 6A-District 7 action.
The Spongers, who trailed by 21 points with less than five minutes remaining, scored two quick touchdowns to get within seven points but couldn't complete the comeback in a 41-34 loss.
After a 55-minute lightning delay at halftime, Lakewood Ranch (4-2, 2-0) grabbed momentum and a big lead early in the third quarter. The Mustangs ran the ball on seven straight plays on the opening drive after the break, taking a 27-14 lead on Chris Pearcey's 13-yard touchdown run off right tackle.
After a Spongers' three-and-out, Lakewood Ranch pushed the lead to 34-14 on a 60-yard pass from Chad Rex to Ty Mcleod.
Tarpon Springs (3-3, 1-1) climbed back with a six-yard touchdown run, but the Mustangs answered immediately, going 48 yards in eight plays after a failed Spongers' onside kick. Pearcey's 14-yard touchdown run gave Lakewood Ranch a 41-20 advantage.
Merriex hit Allen Wilson for a 31-yard touchdown on a double reverse fleaflicker to cut the score to 41-27 with 4:07 remaining. The Spongers recovered the onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, and needed just three plays to score again when Collins rushed for a 17-yard touchdown on a zone-read quarterback keeper.
But that was the last time the Spongers would have the ball. Lakewood Ranch recovered the Spongers' third onside kick of the game and ran out the clock after Pearcey ran for five yards on third and four with under three minutes to go.
Tarpon Springs showed off a punishing ground attack on the game's opening drive, running the ball on six of its first seven plays and going ahead 7-0 on a five-yard run from Ford.
The Spongers led 14-7 midway through the second quarter after Montel Johnson carried into the end zone from a yard out. Pearcey scored on a three-yard carry to cut the lead to 14-13 with 1:12 left before halftime, and then an interception by Wanley Desir in a driving rain set the Mustangs up with the ball at the Spongers' 24-yard line. Wyatt Mcleod scored from 24 yards out on the next play to give Lakewood Ranch a 21-14 lead at the break.
"That was a killer, a momentum killer," Hawn said. "We've got to do a little better managing the game."