[Times art: Earl Towery]
By JOHN C. COTEY
© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 30, 2001
No Hillsborough. No East Lake. No Countryside.
All together now, Pasco County: Woooo hooooo.
In Class 4A, District 6, the Pasco teams -- Land O'Lakes, Mitchell, River Ridge and Ridgewood -- will compete with Springstead and Central for two playoff spots. Considering that River Ridge and Land O'Lakes have been the two strongest teams in the county the past two seasons, can one surmise a Pasco sweep into the postseason?
Well, not quite. While the possibility remains, beating Central is the one obstacle in the way of such an accomplishment. But for a change, there is a possibility.
"I think realistically, everyone has a shot," said Mitchell coach Scott Schmitz. "It's a district that we feel we can compete in."
That would be first-year Mitchell saying that, which should give you an indication of just how open this district is.
Still, Central is probably the favorite based solely on the fact they have 18 seniors on a team that won seven games last year and looked very good in dismantling the Gators.
The Bears did lose their leading rusher, but return junior Tim Gaynor, who ran for 701 yards and 11 touchdowns as a sophomore. That would make him the leading returning rusher in the district as all the Pasco schools lost their top runners.
Springstead finally snapped a 16-game losing streak, and while unlikely to be as bad as it was last year, is not the kind of threat that Pasco teams fear after the past two years being stuck in districts with more powerful Hillsborough and Pinellas teams.
So can Pasco sweep? That's a question that can be best answered by River Ridge and Land O'Lakes, the two best county teams in the district.
While the Gators lost all-time leading rusher Godfrey Pestana and a talented supporting cast, they should benefit from their undefeated junior varsity team, a solid group of youngsters returning, and the talented Drew Weatherford at quarterback.
River Ridge also lost top rusher Mike Tubolino, but returns enough firepower on defense, a revamped backfield that has coaches happy, and a three-year starter at quarterback in Tim Dare.
As for Ridgewood and Mitchell, time will tell. The Rams are looking to replace a quarterback, running back, and a variety of of solid defensive players, and as stocked with junior talent as Mitchell appears to be, it is still a first-year varsity program.
But Schmitz is correct in his assessment -- Mitchell can probably compete in this district.
So can River Ridge, Land O'Lakes and Central. The race begins in earnest Sept. 14.
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