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Heroes and happenings

By JOHN C. COTEY and STEVE LEE, JAMAL THALJI

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 22, 2000


The long-awaited, often-delayed Wesley Chapel Stadium (that's the official name, for now) will (hopefully) open for business on Friday when the Wildcats host Gulf for Homecoming, according to athletic director Tom Adams, in what will be the first home game in the program's brief two-year history.

The construction is completed, but the school must still rush to complete a few important tasks like cutting the grass, lining the field and painting the goal posts. The football field house may not be done by Friday, however. The stadium will seat about 2,500.

"(The difference will be) fan support," Adams said. "A lot of people don't want to make the treks (to Bulldog Stadium in Zephyrhills or W.F. Edwards Stadium in Dade City). It's going to be fantastic. Homecoming at the same time; a big blowout.

"I'm really hoping we pack the house. That's what I want to see."

Adams thanked Zephyrhills and Pasco for hosting Wildcat games the past two seasons.

BENEDETTO BALL

Frustrated by a season's worth of mistakes and mental lapses, Land O'Lakes coach John Benedetto resorted to good old-fashioned football, running the ball right through what eventually became a worn down Ridgewood defense.

"What we did tonight was pretty basic," Benedetto said. "I don't know how many times we ran inside power with (Jason) Carpenter leading for Godfrey (Pestana). It worked."

The result was a 21-7 win and the Gators' third straight playoff berth, provided they beat Gulf on Nov. 3. It will be the Gators' first appearance as a runner-up, provided Countryside beats Ridgewood that same night. The Gators are 2-1 in Class 4A, District 6 and the Cougars are 3-0.

Eight different Gators combined for 56 carries, a season-high.

NOT SPECIAL AT ALL

Pasco's special teams continue to victimize the Pirates, costing them a possible six points and giving two to Blake. A bad punt snap deep in Pirate territory gave the Yellow Jackets a safety in the first quarter. Gilbert Montelongo sent a 42-yard field goal attempt skipping into the end zone. In the same quarter, Pasco coach Ricky Thomas passed up a 51-yard field-goal attempt at the 34-yard line -- just barely in Montelongo's range -- and punted instead while down 14-3. The result was a touchback. When the Pirates' finally scored a touchdown in the third, Kenny Roberts threw a low incompletion on the halfback option pass on the 2-point conversion, nor did he see Jason Dorman wide open in the corner of the end zone.

BEAT IT

Because it was Pasco's Homecoming, the famed Blake Marching Yellow Jackets did not make the trip. The band earned a standing ovation from the Zephyrhills crowd last season with its soulful medley of Earth, Wind and Fire tunes. "It would take a lot to get all those buses and spend all that money and come up and not be able to perform," Blake assistant principal Frank Oliver said. Since Zephyrhills plays Blake on the road this season, that means Pasco County won't get to hear this year's Yellow Jackets show, a collage of Michael Jackson hits Thriller, Man in the Mirror and Smooth Criminal.

QUICK HITTERS

Wesley Chapel's 29-26 double-overtime thriller over Class 2A, District 7 rival Berkeley Prep gives the Wildcats a 2-0 record against Hillsborough County teams. Wesley Chapel defeated Tampa Catholic 50-14 on Sept. 8. ... Ridgewood has been killed by penalties all season, but Friday didn't commit any. ... Blake's special teams was even worse. The team shanked all its kickoffs, had a punt get caught in the wind and roll backwards for minus-14 yards, and converted just one of four 2-point conversions. ... Of Land O'Lakes' eight possessions, five lasted eight plays or longer, including two 10-play drives and a 17-play drive. ... Matt Harden had 121 rushing yards and two touchdowns to lead Wesley Chapel's ball-control attack. ... The Wildcats totaled 204 rushing yards and limited Berkeley Prep to 26 yards on 29 carries.

THEY SAID IT

"Yeah, I just felt we could pin them deep and try and get the ball back, but it obviously didn't work." -- Pasco coach Ricky Thomas, on foregoing a 51-yard field goal for a punt

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