Centennial and Chasco middle schools are ready to take the field - but not quite ready to compete for a conference title.
By STEVE LEE
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 30, 2001
NEW PORT RICHEY -- When the middle school season begins Sept. 4, two additional teams will be contending for a championship.
The Centennial Cyclones in Dade City and the Chasco Chargers in Port Richey are the county's 10th and 11th teams. They will vie for the Pasco County Middle School Athletic Conference title that ended in a three-way tie between Hudson, Pasco and Weightman last season.
Chasco reduces overcrowding at Bayonet Point and Gulf. Centennial draws primarily from Stewart in Zephyrhills.
"It's a win-win situation for the kids," Bayonet Point athletic director Mike Wood said. "Instead of 45 or so playing here, now you have that number here and 40 or 50 more playing at Chasco."
Centennial coach John McDougall, a Zephyrhills assistant the past eight seasons, expected similar numbers. Initially, 15 players showed up, but that number increased to 36 by the second week of practice.
"I was really surprised for the good," McDougall said, adding that some had no prior football experience.
The new teams have early-season byes -- Chasco the first week and Centennial the second week -- by design. Hudson athletic director Joe Wajerski, who's also the conference executive secretary, made out the schedule anticipating the newcomers could benefit from an early break.
"That'll help us get ready," Chasco coach Nick Zizo said.
The extra week to prepare will give Zizo more time to come up with a game plan to beat Seven Springs on Sept. 11. Zizo coached at that school the past three years.
"That'll be very interesting," Zizo said of the game against Seven Springs.
Wajerski also purposely didn't schedule a Chasco-Centennial game, he said, "because I didn't want one to have bragging rights over the other in the first year."
"It doesn't matter either way," Zizo said of a possible matchup against Centennial. "We'll play whoever we have to play. We'll play (the Cyclones) eventually."
Zizo is glad Weightman, which has won five conference titles and shared three others, is not on his team's schedule. But the Chargers play Hudson Oct. 9.
Hudson and Weightman, who also tied for the conference title in 1997, will not share another championship if those schools are unbeaten this season. Instead, they would meet in a playoff. "This will probably be the first year where there's a good chance of that happening," Wajerski said.
A playoff game, if necessary, would take place Oct. 23, a week after the last regular-season contests. Wajerski said a site is yet to be determined, but he would prefer a neutral school.
In his first year, McDougall is more concerned with building a program than winning a championship.
"My main goal is I want to turn (the players) on to football, so when they leave here they like football," McDougall said.
"A lot of them have played before, a lot of them haven't. There's got to be some fun tied into it."