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If Pirates can remain healthy, watch out

Injuries hurt last year, when the team just missed the playoffs.

By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 6, 2002


DADE CITY -- Ricky Thomas has one small hope for this season, before he begins to think about reaching the playoffs for the first time in four years or avenging lopsided losses to South Sumter and Wesley Chapel.

First and foremost, if it's not asking too much, just ease up on the injuries.

Last year's Pirates stormed to a 3-0 start, then lost two-way stars Devorian Burns and Ben Alford to injuries and Marcus Allen to a suspension. Thomas' team speed and line depth finished the year in the training room.

"We're short on numbers, so I'm always very concerned about whether we can stay healthy," said Thomas, who has 35 varsity players. "If we can stay healthy, we can be as competitive as anyone else."

Pasco's four losses last year came against playoff teams and its six wins came against nonplayoff teams, so it was fitting the Pirates finished in the middle, missing the playoffs by a strength-of-schedule tiebreaker. With the same four teams on the schedule, Pasco will likely have to beat one to make the playoffs.

Alford returns for a third year at quarterback, and the running game starts with Devon Hicks, who finished second in the county in scoring and averaged 7.5 yards a carry, trailing only Wesley Chapel's Tyrone Tomlin among runners with 50 or more carries. The biggest boost may come from a full season with Allen, a wide receiver and safety who can lead the Pirates on both sides of the ball.

"I can't even describe what he means to this football team," Thomas said. "He's such a great leader, such a heck of a playmaker. He can change the complexion of a football game just with his talent. He's a fighter, and when you get a player like that back, it's got to help the program."

Also back is fullback/defensive end Kirk Moats, who transferred to South Sumter in the spring but returned in August. Linebacker Bryan Hall, who had 78 tackles for Hernando last season, transferred in for his senior year, offsetting Maurice Standifer's transfer to Wesley Chapel.

The schedule gives Pasco four of its last five games at R.F. Edwards Stadium, with the lone road game at Zephyrhills on Nov. 1. Two of those home dates will bring scoreboards to the Pirates' memories, a year after losing 63-13 at South Sumter and 71-6 at Wesley Chapel.

"Wesley Chapel put a hurting on us, a beating, and so did South Sumter," Thomas said. "But that's not my angle right now. I'm not trying for the revenge factor. Anytime you go 6-4, the motivation is trying to improve, because you don't want to repeat that."

PIRATES PLAYBOOK

OFFENSE: Ricky Thomas picked up the "Power Set" offense in 1979 when he was an assistant to longtime coach Dub Palmer at Hernando, and he has run it ever since joining the Pasco staff one year later. The main formations, called "T-Bone Right" and "T-Bone Left," feature tight ends on each side and a three-back split backfield. If the defense bunches in too close and needs to be spread across the field, either tight end can go in motion or step back as a split end off the line, or one of the backs can shift out of the backfield to line up in the slot.

DEFENSE: Pasco lines up in a 5-2 base defense, using two inside linebackers and four defensive backs. The key to making the defense work is having the linemen keep the offensive line off the linebackers, allowing them to make plays. Junior Lester White and senior Bryan Hall, a transfer from Hernando, are tentatively starting at linebacker this fall. In Pasco's scheme of things, the linebackers "have to be heroes," Thomas said, circling them in the middle of the diagram. "They have to be real athletes." Pasco calls its base defense "52 Monster," and depending on the stunting used, variations include "52 Red" and "52 Black."

PASCO PIRATES

Directions

W.F. EDWARDS STADIUM: S.R. 52, Dade City. From the west, take S.R. 52 east about 25 miles to the school, on the right. From the south and north, take Interstate 75 to S.R. 52 and head east. School is 5 miles on the right.

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