Football: Tarpon Springs stuns PHU 22-21 with Dramatic Finish

Tarpon Springs needed a miracle to beat rival Palm Harbor University and remain unbeaten. 

Trailing by a touchdown, the Spongers faced 4th-and-44. 

There are no plays scripted for that situation. Still, Tarpon Springs coach Jeremy Frioud had a plan. 

He decided to put quarterback Geramyah Porter, a speedy, gifted playmaker, at receiver. Kole Hopkins, a strong-armed baseball player, took Porter’s place at quarterback. 

The idea was to have Hopkins throw as far as he could in Porter’s direction and hope for the best. 

Hopkins’ heave had company. Two Hurricanes’ defenders were waiting to swat the pass away. But as the ball ricocheted off them, it fell into Porter’s lap. 

First down. The drive, which seemed all but over, was still alive. 

The Spongers took advantage. Porter capped it off with a touchdown run. 

That left Frioud with another crucial decision: kick the extra-point to tie the score or go for two and the win. 

Frioud wanted to win – now. 

Running the same play that scored the touchdown, Porter converted the two-point conversion to pull off an improbable 22-21 victory.

Tarpon Springs not only claimed the inaugural Harbor Springs trophy in a game that was billed as “The Clash of the Coast” but also started 3-0 for the first time since 2014. 

“Greatest win I’ve ever been a part of,” Frioud said afterward. 

The victory culminated what has been a remarkable transformation of the Spongers’ program. 

When Frioud returned to his alma mater as coach last year, there were only 15 players on varsity. There was no junior varsity program. 

In order for the program to rebound, Frioud decided to play as an independent his first two seasons rather than compete for a district title. That way, Tarpon Springs could replenish its numbers enough to field junior varsity and varsity teams, as well as gain some confidence.

Last year, the Spongers made progress. There was a junior varsity team for the first time in years. And the varsity went 3-7.

The numbers went up. Frioud said he now has 55 players.

Just as important was restoring community pride.  

For lots of people in Tarpon Springs, watching football is not just a pastime, it is part of the fabric of small-town life. White and maroon balloons adorn mailboxes on the street leading up the stadium before big games. Spongers memorabilia sells in stores.

Frioud knew just how much the Tarpon Springs faithful would rally around a successful program.  

So far, the vibe is good. 

The start of this season showed just how much the Spongers had turned things around. They opened with victories over St. Petersburg and Osceola, both of which made the playoffs a year ago. Last year, Tarpon Springs lost to both teams by a combined 83-20. 

That set the stage for Friday’s showdown with Palm Harbor University. 

The Hurricanes had rebounded, too. They went 6-4 last season and were aiming to go 4-0 for the first time in school history with a victory over the Spongers. 

The game was tight with both teams trading scores. In the fourth quarter, the Hurricanes took a 21-14 lead. 

Minutes later, the lead – and bragging rights – evaporated. 

All on a desperation throw. 

“It’s just unbelievable how much the kids have bought in and how quickly we’ve been able to turn this thing around,” Frioud said.