When the Florida High School Athletic Association realigned its classifications and districts, as it does every two years, the 2013-15 athletic seasons would bring old rivalries back together. For Pasco High’s football team, it would be matching up, again with not only Hernando County teams, but also a somewhat familiar foe. Citrus County’s South Sumter is one of the tougher opponents added to the Pirates schedule. Before the two meet tonight (7:30) at Pasco for a pivotal Class 5A-District 6 game, let’s take a look at both teams.
Bushnell South Sumter
For starters, Raiders coach Inman Sherman has coached the team nearly 30 years. Sherman has taken the Raiders to 17 playoff appearances, five region finals and the 2005 state title game.
The Raiders football program has produced numerous great players, from Division I recruits, including five that signed with colleges in February, and even former NFL players.
As for this 2013 season, South Sumter is led by running backs J.T. Taylor and Anderson Faulk that are running well, thanks to big offensive line, while defensive seniors Brandon Anderson, Joey Mohler and Xavier Story are leading a unit that has allowed only 29 points, including 15 to Zephyrhills two weeks ago.
The Raiders have also been dubbed favorites, not only to win this game, but to take the 5A-6 title because of the team’s talent and because of Pasco’s early season struggles.
The Pirates have met South Sumter twice before, splitting the series by beating the Raiders 37-14, but losing 32-7. Back then, Pasco was in Class 3A, while South Sumter was in 2A, and now, much has changed.
First, Pasco has not been dominant as it has been the past few seasons, in which the Pirates are in jeopardy having three losses in a season since 2007, McHugh’s first with the Pirates (6-5).
Also in jeopardy is Pasco’s postseason streak. The Pirates have made the region tournament every season under McHugh, but if they lose to the Raiders tonight, they will not only have to win out, but need help from district opponents to grab one of the two spots.
A lot is on the line for the team that has two state final four and a region final appearances the past five seasons and a team that gave up 50 points in the 2012 regular season, though has already given up 53 this season. Despite that, Pasco’s defense, led by LB Brandon Debyah (38 tackles) and DL Jacob Morphew (5.5 sacks), is still a speedy unit capable of shutting down an offense.
The Pirates are led by junior QB Grant Starling, the new starter after the dismissal of Ben Chandler, and his three big targets: Nate Craig (3 TDs), Malik Johns (3 TDs) and Bowman Archibald (2 TDs). Johns leads the team with 713 all-purpose yards.
Though only Week 6, tonight’s game will, most likely, have big impact on 5A-District 6, especially for Pasco, which hasn’t had two district losses in a season since 2007. If the Pirates lose, they will be in a deep hole in the postseason race. If the Pirates win, it could set up an interesting tiebreaker situation, especially if Zephyrhills were to beat Brooksville Nature Coast on Oct. 11 and Pasco winning the 9-Mile War the Bulldogs host Nov. 1.
No matter what, this district race should be tight one the rest of the season.
PREDICTION: Correspondents Mike Camunas, Bart O’Connell and Chris Errington pick Pasco, while Andy Villamarzo, Steve Campbell, Kyle LoJacono and Kenny Sanders pick South Sumter.
Correspondent Mike Camunas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MikeCamunas.