We’re six weeks into the 2013 Pasco County prep football season, so you know what that means. Time to take a look back at the rising stars across the county. Will these players and teams be in the conversation five weeks from now? Time will tell. For now, a quick cheer for the best of the best at the halfway point:
QB James Pensyl, Jr., Land O’ Lakes
Not since the Gators had a Weatherford on the roster have they had a quarterback this productive. The 6-foot-6 left-hander has breathed new life into Land O’ Lakes football (5-0). Pensyl has not only been one of the best quarterbacks in the Bay area (89-for-155 passing, 1,277 yards, 10 TD, INT, 2 rush TD), but he’s done so in a new high-tempo offense that has opposing defenses on their heels. The Gators are one of the county’s top teams, and Pensyl is a big reason why.
RB Nathan Johnson, Jr., Sunlake: Leads the county with 801 rushing yards and eight TDs. The 5-foot-10, 195-pound back is starting to garner Division I interest, particularly from Miami.
Noah Siegrist, Sr., Hudson: Leads the rejuvenated Cobras by powering the team’s offense with 680 yards and five TDs.
ATH Malik Johns, Sr., Pasco: On a Pirates team still trying to find its way, he has team-high 713 all-purpose yards and eight TDs.
RB Christian Trinidad, Sr., Mitchell: Leads the .500 Mustangs with 440 rushing yards and seven TDs.
LB Ben Wood, Sr., Sunlake
The Seahawks defense has been impressive. The unit has given up 23 points, and the most to any team was Spring Hill Springstead in a 14-13 loss. Leading the way is Wood, who is third in the county with 71 tackles, but also has 4.5 sacks, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble.
DL Zion Osborn, Sr., Sunlake: Has a county-high 6.5 sacks for a defense that has 26 overall.
LB Darius Wells, Sr., Land O’ Lakes: Has 31 tackles, team-high six sacks and two fumble recoveries.
DL Jacob Morphew, Sr. Pasco: Defensive star for Pirates has 5.5 sacks, 28 tackles and a forced fumble.
DL Shaheed Salmon, Sr., Land O’ Lakes: A team-high 51 tackles to go along with five sacks and three forced fumbles.
DB Zach Russell, Sr., Hudson: Has a team-high three of the Cobras’ eight interceptions, plus five rushing TDs on offense.
LB Jaye Miner, Jr., Wiregrass Ranch: Second in the county with 75 tackles and has four sacks and two fumble recoveries.
LB Larry Couch, Jr. Mitchell: County-high 83 tackles and two fumble recoveries.
RB Glass Wilson, So., Ridgewood
The Rams are averaging 220 rushing yards per game. Most of those yards are going to one of the best running backs no one has heard of, but whose name won’t be forgotten. Wilson has been the bulk of the 1-5 Rams’ offense, carrying 127 times for 652 yards and four TDs.
RB Trent Crawford, Sr., Anclote: Despite sharing carries with Willie Barrett, leads the team with 571 rushing yards and five TDs.
TE/DL Bowman Archibald, Jr., Pasco: The two-way player has shined on both sides of the ball with two touchdown catches and 16 tackles, 1.5 sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery.
Since coach Mark Kantor took over before the spring of 2012, the Cobras have improved by leaps and bounds, snapping a 22-game losing streak and bolstering depth problems. Following a 3-7 season in 2012, the Cobras are 4-1 this season, and they could be 5-0. Kantor, with QB Joey Caruso, is eyeing, at the very least, the team’s first postseason appearance since 2009 and the team’s first district title since 2005.
Land O’ Lakes: The Gators had so many unanswered questions entering the season. Could the team learn the new offense? Could players who had to start sooner than expected last season grow into experienced players? Would they even be the best team in Land O’ Lakes? So far, the Gators have answered most of these questions as the county’s lone remaining undefeated team and a serious contender for a district title.
River Ridge: With numerous underclassmen starting and a poor start to the season, many thought River Ridge was headed to a 0-10 season. However, coach Ryan Benjamin and RB Ben Perdomo, who is second in the county with 722 rushing yards, have made games competitive. The Royal Knights lost to Mitchell just 24-21 and upset Wiregrass Ranch.
Zephyrhills: The Bulldogs have been on the brink of making the postseason for the first time since 2006, but they can’t seem to get past the last hurdle. This year, coach Reggie Roberts and Co. are a serious contender to get into the region tournament and a chance to knock off 9-mile rival Pasco for the first time since 2007.