Pasco reaches one goal: Thanksgiving practice
DADE CITY - There's absolutely nothing wrong with practicing on the Thanksgiving. "A lot people look at you weird when you say you really want to do that," Pasco coach Tom McHugh said. "But all season long we've set realistic goals, one of them being to practice on Thanksgiving and we're doing that now. They can laugh at us, but that means we've got another game to play." Indeed the Pirates (11-0) are moving on and practicing all week, including the final walk-through Thursday before players and coaches head home for turkey. On Friday, they'll travel to face Citra North Marion (9-2) in the Class 5A-Region 3 semifinals, a test even tougher than the one faced during Pasco's 21-14 win over Alachua Santa Fe (8-3). "There were times we just had to tell one another to just calm down, to relax and do what we know we can do," said junior Janarion Grant, who had a 19-yard touchdown grab, a 75-yard punt return and an interception in Friday's win. "We had our ups and downs and stick it out because we really want to go to states and win it. We had to pull together because, through ups and downs, we can't do it (all) as just individuals."Pasco did have its ups and downs Friday, including early miscues, such as quarterback Jacob Guy, who finished 5-for-11 passing for 119, throwing interceptions on consecutive possessions to start the game. Later on, as Pasco was shut out in the second half for the first time this season, running back David Emmanuel lost two fumbles. "We didn't even smell the end zone after halftime," Guy said. "We should have played better — and, yeah, edged is the perfect word for what we did (Friday). "But throwing two interceptions like that is unacceptable by me. To put it on the defense's shoulders that much is my fault because I just gave it away when we're driving down and close to the end zone — we should've scored and could've been much more ahead." As the Pirates rebounded and secured a late 21-14 lead after the 75-yard punt return by Grant, plus two touchdowns passes by Guy, including a 63-yard bomb to sophomore receiver Lane Stancil and the 19-yard impromptu touchdown strike to Grant on a botched snap during a field goal attempt, it still had to stand tall and put a stop to the Raiders. However, a goal line stance at the end of the second quarter, led by defensive lineman/linebackers Nick Wilson, Aryn Strickland and Joey Ivie stopped that threat, while suburb secondary play by Grant and Emmanuel ended two other drives with less than three minutes in the game. "I think we handled the adversity well now that we finally saw it," Guy said. "We can't rely on the defense that much though, but we've played together for so long and some of the guys on this team are my best friends since we were seven, so I know what we're capable of and that we can step up to the task when it calls." Calling next is the Colts, who gave Fivay (7-4) a 28-0 shutout in the second-year program's first playoff game. It'll be a team that's invited to the Thanksgiving Day discussion. "Look, I think it's a great thing (practicing on Thanksgiving)," said McHugh, who has lost just 10 games in five seasons at Pasco. "We get (senior receiver) Trey (Dudley-Giles) back (from a one-game suspension) on Monday, so I'm happy about that and I'm happy about moving on and there aren't a lot of people who aren't. "And there aren't a lot of people who can also say 'we're practicing on Thanksgiving'."
Correspondent Mike Camunas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MikeCamunasTrib.