Pasco, riding a 38-game regular-season win streak, the unanimous team to beat in the county, was stunned in a rematch three years in the making.
Sunlake took down the Pasco County giant, defeating the Pirates 17-6 to hand them their first regular-season loss in nearly four years.
“Sunlake High School stunned the University of Pasco, a team with top guys and Division I guys, and I’m very proud of what we did tonight,” said coach Bill Browning, the architect of Sunlake’s football program. “We took down the king tonight.”
Fittingly, Sunlake, which was outscored 149-18 by Pasco in four previous meetings, was the team to end Pasco’s win streak against in-county teams at 45 games. The Pirates (0-1) started their streak by beating Sunlake in 2007.
“We’ve been in games like this before,” said Browning, who has guided Sunlake to a 26-6 record the past three seasons. “We’ve played (Ocala) Vanguard and the Hernandos and Nature Coasts and it’s about not beating yourself.
“This is one of the biggest wins in school history. They’ve been king of the county for a long, long time now. It’s a sweet week for Sunlake High School.”
The Seahawks (1-0) took an 8-0 first-quarter lead when Logan Wolfe scampered in a 22-yard score and Jacob Guzman added the 2-point run.
On the ensuing kickoff, senior Malik Johns returned it 95 yards. However, Pasco’s 2-point attempt failed, leaving the score 8-6.
But Pasco’s high-powered offense — led by Johns, quarterback Ben Chandler and sophomore sensation Nate Craig — never found the end zone.
“We just weren’t working as a team and we need to do that — I’m going to make sure we do that,” an emotional Johns said. “We need to work together, like a family, and then we’ll click.”
Chandler struggled to get the ball to Craig or Johns, both of whom were swarmed by Sunlake’s secondary led by Joey Baptiste and Wayna Lamar. Chandler, who went 9-for-23 passing and also led the Pirates in rushing attempts, threw an interception and lost a fumble in the first half. Craig also lost fumble, then never got back to his play-making self.
“We wanted this game — we wanted it real bad,” said Sunlake running back Nate Johnson, who had 18 carries for 62 yards. “We know what they got. They got No. 9 (Craig) and No. 11 (Johns) and No. 19 (Chandler). We did our best and our defense really stepped it up. We really wanted to knock the king off.”