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Lecanto’s Braeden Williams (33) tries to get on top of a punt early in the second quarter of Thursday night’s game against Springstead at Lecanto.

LECANTO — Early this month Lecanto had put together back-to-back wins and appeared to have found its offensive identity.

But for the second week in a row, the Panthers were knocked off-kilter early due to an injury to their primary running back, and it played a significant part in another blowout loss, this time 41-6 against visiting Springstead in a rare Thursday night game.

“We came in with a game plan,” Lecanto head coach Wyndell “Chop” Alexander said. “When your top athletes go down it’s just hard to bounce back.

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“… You pretty much have to scrap what you did the whole week and you have to look at your personnel and figure out what they can execute. I felt like my coaches did the best that they could. I thought they did good job. We stayed coaching the whole game.”

Last week against Vanguard, county rushing leader Luke Malmberg suffered a separated shoulder in the first quarter, forcing him to miss the rest of that game and this one.

Darius Gainer stepped into the starting running back role and looked up to task out of the gate. The junior carried the ball 13 times for 49 yards across the first three possessions for the Panthers (3-5, 0-3 District 6A-5). However, he rolled his ankle and Alexander opted to sit Gainer the rest of the way.

Gainer’s final run preceded a punt that began a disastrous sequence for Lecanto in the second quarter. With Springstead (6-3, 1-1 6A-5) leading 7-6, Madden Buratczuk blocked the kick and Curtis Chancey recovered to give the Eagles the ball on the Panthers’ 35-yard line.

Springstead needed just two plays to cash in, with Owen Andress running up the middle for a 5-yard touchdown to make it 14-6 with 4:10 to play in the first half.

Two plays into the next drive, Lecanto fumbled the ball away, recovered by P.J. Class. The Eagles went 29 yards on just four snaps, capped by Ayden Ferguson taking a Nick Centola pass 15 yards to the end zone with 1:34 to go before halftime.

The Panthers ran off very little clock while going three-and-out, giving the Eagles one more possession before the intermission. Centola found Cross Licht over the middle for a 17-yard scoring strike as 9.7 seconds remained, and Springstead led 27-6 at halftime. It was Licht’s second touchdown, following a 4-yard run on the first play of the second quarter.

“The first half, I think we kind of got deflated once Darius got hurt and we had that fumble early in the game,” Alexander said. “… You never know when the momentum is going to shift in the game and that just happened to be that time. We couldn’t bounce back. Eventually we’re going to be the type of team that can bounce back whenever we make mistakes early in the game. Tonight we just couldn’t capitalize.”

Staked to that big advantage, the Eagles did what they have done so well the past few decades, pound the ball and milk the clock. They ran 40 times for 284 yards. Much of the damage came from Andress, who had 186 yards on 19 carries.

“They’re so fundamentally sound. That ain’t nothing flashy that they do. What they do, they just do it well,” Alexander said. “If we play undisciplined; it’s hard to stop disciplined when you play undisciplined.

“Like I’ve been saying for the past 5-6 weeks, we’ve just got to focus on the details. I felt like we have gotten better during the season, but it’s still much room to improve.”

After Gainer went down, the Panthers were limited to just 31 yards and ran only 19 offensive plays as the Eagles dominated time of possession.

“That No. 25 (Malmberg), watching him on film, he’s a really good runner, tough runner, great balance. He was the heart of their offense I feel like, so that was tough missing him,” Springstead head coach Mike Garofano said. “And then their next probably best player and best athlete (Gainer), he went out early in the first half. So that just took away from the firepower.

“When you get down to your third back, it makes things a little tough for you. I know it would make things tough for us. Not taking anything away from that other back but you’ve got ones and twos (on the depth chart) for a reason.”

Lecanto did have one big offensive highlight. Schwantez Simmons found Donovan Foster wide open down the middle of the field and hit him in stride for a 64-yard touchdown in the second quarter. That was all the Panthers could muster with Malmberg and Gainer sidelined.

“He’s supposed to get his MRI I believe Monday,” Alexander said of Malmberg. “We’re going to continue to pray about his situation and hopefully he can play. If he plays it can definitely be a boost in our morale in practice. I think the kids will rally behind him. And if Darius is healthy, that could really boost our spirits.”

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Contact Chronicle sports reporter Chris Bernhardt at 352-563-5660, chris.bernhardt@chronicleonline.com or on twitter @cpbernhardtjr.

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