© St. Petersburg Times, published October 27, 2002
"Coach, I'm tired of these linemen!" -- DEVON HICKS, Pasco fullback, yelling at coach Ricky Thomas after being dropped for a 14-yard loss in the first half at his own 5.
Three county teams locked up playoff berths with wins. Land O'Lakes' 48-3 win over River Ridge clinched the Class 4A District 6 title.
And while it's more complicated, Zephyrhills and Wesley Chapel also clinched return trips to the playoffs.
The Class 3A District 7 title is still up for grabs. Zephyrhills wins it if it beats Pasco, but if the Pirates win and Wesley Chapel beats Hudson, there will be a three-way tie. That forces a district shootout Nov. 4 to determine the champ, the runner-up and the at-large hopeful. The Wildcats and Bulldogs already qualify for an at-large berth with seven wins each.
Ridgewood's outlook is simple: Beat Central on Friday and the Rams have the first playoff berth in team history. There's actually a strong chance Ridgewood could make the playoffs as an at-large team with a 5-4 record.
It was bad enough Springstead had to try to tackle Ridgewood running back Adamm Oliver. It almost seemed unfair to have to block him, too.
Faced with a single blocker on the Eagles' first punt, Oliver had little trouble getting into the backfield to block Mike Hibbert's kick and give the Rams possession at the Springstead 11-yard line six minutes into the game. Two plays later, Oliver ran 10 yards to score the first of his two touchdowns. The defensive end finished with 101 yards.
"If it's one-on-one with someone, I think I have the advantage because of my size, especially if the guy is 170 pounds," Oliver said. "So I basically just powered through him and there was no one else."
Hudson owns Gulf. The Cobras hold an 18-11 advantage in the series, and won their fifth consecutive game over the Bucs 34-20 on the road Friday night.
Hudson was just the better offensive team. Quarterback Josh Bunting went 6-for-11 for 57 yards and two big touchdowns in the first and third quarters. The Cobras' receivers finally started to hold onto the ball, while Bucs' QB Jeff Blanchette saw his first five passes dropped. He went 8-for-21 for 91 yards, throwing a touchdown and a crucial interception to Hudson's Tommy Snow, who made a great over-the-shoulder grab with 6:15 left.
Blanchette was also his team's best running option, carrying the ball 11 times for 71 yards and a touchdown. But Hudson's rushing attack was far superior, grinding up 296 yards on 39 carries. Travis Miller carried the ball 27 times for 163 yards and two scores.
"We needed this about four games ago to get us on track," said Miller, as the Cobras ended a six-game losing streak and earned their first victory.
River Ridge coach Mike DeGennaro was a pretty good lineman back in his playing days at Hudson. So when he sees a good line, he knows it.
Which is why he credited Land O'Lakes' offensive line -- led by Joey Tuttle, Bobby O'Dell and Josh Harvey -- for much of the undefeated Gators' success on offense. Without them, quarterback Drew Weatherford would not be the new owner of the county's single-season passing record, throwing for 215 yards and five touchdowns in Friday's 48-3 win. Weatherford has now thrown for more than 1,600 yards, breaking the old record of 1,489 yards by Zephyrhills' Shaun Daugherty in 1994.
"I think people underrate their offensive line," DeGennaro said, adding that the Gators finish their blocks, then look for someone else to hit downfield.
The Gators rushed for 202 yards.
Does Pasco County have another budding quarterback prodigy? Mitchell sophomore Spencer Brown made his second start in a 26-17 loss to Central. He went 6-for-10 for 59 yards and two passing touchdowns and scrambled nine times for 55 yards.
"That is a good quarterback," Central coach John Wilkinson said. "He's going to be a really good one."