By KRISTEN LEIGH PORTER
LECANTO -- Jarvis Patterson has blocked out last year's 56-18 Lecanto loss to Crystal River. Except for one detail.
"I remember them beating the snot out of us," Patterson said. "That's the only thing I remember."
Panthers quarterback Brian Dawsy has a better memory. Starting at cornerback last season, he recalls Lecanto scoring the first touchdown of the game. The Pirates led just 21-12 at the half but racked up three unanswered third-quarter touchdowns to put it out of reach.
"It was almost like we had a letdown in the second half, like we almost gave up," Dawsy said. "We have too much heart and pride to let that happen again."
Lecanto coach Dick Slack said challenging the defending Gulf Coast Athletic Conference and Class 3A, District 3 champ would be a tough test for any area squad. Slack said until somebody knocks them off, the Pirates are the power team in the conference.
"I think every year, every team is gunning for Crystal River," Slack said. "The kids are up for it and know it's got conference and district implications, as well as an at-large bid in the district tournament."
Just as they did last season, the 3-1 Panthers will rely on their running attack. But Lecanto's ground game took a hit when senior quarterback Phil Reed suffered a season-ending shoulder injury after amassing 265 rushing yards in nine quarters.
Patterson managed a team-best 63 yards on 10 carries against the Pirates last year, but is averaging 209 yards this season. His career-best 274 yards last week pushed the senior's total to 839 yards on 114 attempts.
Crystal River (2-2) knows what is coming. In last season's meeting, Ryan McNally single-handedly out-rushed the Panthers with 217 yards, but does not expect to repeat the feat.
"Jarvis is doing a great job this year, and he runs the ball hard and I'm sure he's going to do that against us," McNally said. "I think he's been underestimated a lot, he's a great runner, and now people are just noticing that. And I guess he's got to step it up even more now that Phil's gone, because he's one of the last leaders left."
Reed played nearly every down on offense and defense and was the team's emotional leader. Pirates coach Jere DeFoor said he would have prepared his squad to face Lecanto the same whether Reed was going to be out there or not.
"You've got to line up and play Lecanto for the Power-I," DeFoor said. "Jarvis is still at tailback and they still run all the backs in the backfield, so you've still got to meet somewhere at the line of scrimmage and find the ball. They run it strong and weak, and there's a lot of bodies there."
The 20 Lecanto seniors never have beaten Crystal River, and the Panthers are excited about getting one last crack at sinking the Pirates' ship. They've been talking about that during class as well as practice, Patterson said.
The motivation is the same for many of the Pirates, says McNally, who is in his third varsity season and never has lost to Lecanto at any level. "I'm looking forward to it," McNally said. "One, because we don't want their team to be saying, "Our senior year we beat Crystal River' and at the same time we don't want to say "Our senior year we were the team that lost to Lecanto.' "
The Panthers know that ending their 14-game losing streak against the Pirates will not be easy. Lecanto has been battling sickness and injury all week.
Patterson did not practice on Monday due to illness, and starting free safety Louis Santos was being tested for mononucleosis Thursday. Injured starting center and defensive tackle Jimmy Sudlow will be a game-day decision.
While not at full strength, Lecanto's players think they can create some new memories of the county rivalry. Good ones.
"It's just like Any Given Sunday, but it's "Any Given Friday,' " said Dawsy, who also will start at safety. "You never know who's going to win."
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