Pirates gather to remember '92
By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
DADE CITY -- The reunion drew 15 players, which isn't enough to win a state championship, but is plenty to commemorate one.
Pasco High School celebrated the 10th anniversary of its 1992 state champs before and during the Pirates' home opener against Mitchell on Friday night.
Some players came from across town. Others drove down from Alabama or up from South Florida, or even flew in from Indianapolis. All were linked by a memorable run of 14 games they remembered Friday as one of their proudest accomplishments.
"It was a fun chapter in our lives, and it's fun to look back on it," said Kaivon Madani, a lineman in '92, now in medical school in Gainesville. "I've kept up with a lot of them, but I haven't seen some of these guys in nine years. I've only seen Pasco play maybe three times since I graduated. When I see Pirates run out on the field, there might be a little bit of butterflies in my stomach."
The players, along with seven cheerleaders and five assistant coaches from the championship team, gathered for dinner in the school cafeteria, then were introduced during halftime of the Pirates' 29-6 victory over the Mustangs.
They were greeted with red-and-black balloons, welcome-back signs from cheerleaders and a shower of applause from a crowd that braved rains that would eventually end the game during the third quarter.
Former Pasco assistant Terry Voyles, now the head coach at Hudson, was able to attend because his team did not play Friday night. He dusted off a black T-shirt from the '92 season, while his wife, Barbara, wore his old coach's jacket.
Two of the '92 Pirates' biggest stars, brothers Darren and Troy Hambrick, were unable to attend because they play in the NFL, but their mother, Marvis, was there on their behalf, catching up with other parents and familiar faces.
"That championship game, oh, Lord, it meant a lot to all of them," she recalled.
There are connections between past and present -- Bobby Wade, a guard on the '92 team, is in his fourth season as an assistant coach at Pasco. Antwion Peyton, a key reserve at several positions, is now an Army air traffic controller stationed in Alabama who drove six hours to catch the game. He came not only for the reunion but also to watch two of his cousins, current Pirates stars Devon Hicks and Johnny Peyton, who had a touchdown and an interception, respectively, in Friday's game.
The best of Pasco's past could also be part of the football program's future. Several of the Pasco alums brought young children to the reunion, a second generation of Pirates that could follow in their fathers' footsteps. Jamie Byrd, a running back and free safety on the '92 team, said the Pirates' real strength in that special season was that so many of the players had suited up together on the same teams since they were 7 years old.
Byrd's 10-year-old son, Jamie Jr., now plays on the same Mighty Mites team as Josh Johnson, the son of former Pirates quarterback Issac Johnson.
"I'm living my dreams through him," Byrd said of his son. "He loves it. It's me all over again. I'm trying to put in his head the things I didn't get put in mine. These kids, they're more mature than we were. We opened the doors up for Pasco, and I think part of why we were able to do that was that we all grew up together. Those were the good ol' days for all of us."
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