Pasco High School’s football team is 11-0, has raced through the 2011 season like a determined Christmas shopper through Dade City’s downtown antique shops and is thinking about winning a state championship.
But outside Dade City, some are placing an asterisk next to the Pirates’ record, and that asterisk is shaped like, well, Pasco County.
Yes, the Pirates are undefeated, but the level of competition has been rather woeful. They have scored 50-plus points in a game eight times. They allowed only 51 all season.
While those numbers would earn praise and cause jaws to drop in other counties, the fact that they were compiled in Pasco County only elicited questionable shakes of the head.
Is it fair to so casually dismiss one of the finest seasons in county history?
Or does it make perfect sense?
Or maybe we should just wait until Friday, when the Pirates travel to play a talented Citra North Marion team in the Class 5A region semifinals and defend their honor.
“This,” said quarterback Jacob Guy, “will show how good we are.”
This is a game the Pirates have been dreaming about since summer.
Ever since last year’s playoff loss to eventual state champion Jefferson, they have hungered for a big-time matchup like this.
“Probably since right after the USF (Sling-N-Shoot, which the Pirates surprisingly won),” said wide receiver/defensive back Trey Dudley-Giles. “We saw who was going to be in our bracket and knew that was the game. We knew they had some Division I players … but we do, too.”
Dudley-Giles is one of them. A gifted athlete, he can do a lot of everything, from receiving to locking down the other team’s best receiver to returning kicks to playing quarterback.
And the same goes for Janarion Grant, who possesses an identical skill set, and running back David Emmanuel averages more than 10 yards a carry.
Respectively, they have scored 20, 21 and 21 touchdowns.
Throw in Guy, who has 33 touchdowns passes, and you have as fabulous a foursome as there is in Tampa Bay.
But, about that schedule …
The Pirates didn’t have to play Sunlake, which stunned Ocala Vanguard last week and is still alive in the Class 6A playoffs.
Unless you count a preseason contest, they didn’t have to play Hernando, which nearly shocked Gainesville last week.
And the one team they could always count on to give them a fight, Land O’Lakes, didn’t.
The Gators, though, at least held Pasco under 50 points, something only Zephyrhills could say in the regular season, and the Bulldogs lost 45-0.
Other teams on the Pirate schedule were beaten by scores of 70-0, 54-0, 53-0, 52-0 and 51-0, to name a few.
And the whole while, the Pirates were sneaking peeks into the future. Eager for North Marion. Eager for validation.
“We can only do what the schedule lets us do,” said Dudley-Giles. “Do we feel a little overlooked? Probably a little. But we know when we come out and do what we can do on Fridays, we’re not.”
Last week, the Pirates beat Alachua Santa Fe only 21-14, raising more questions about whether the Pirates were prepared for the step up in competition.
“First-game playoff jitters,” said Dudley-Giles. “We had a lot of guys playing their first playoff game.”
By the same token, North Marion beat Fivay, a team Pasco beat 59-6, by a 28-0 score.
“We can’t really listen to what anyone thinks outside,” Guy said. “It’s got to be what us 52, 53 guys and our coaches think. One of Coach (Tom) McHugh’s favorite sayings is teams come down here thinking they can win; we go in knowing we can win. I think we know we can win this game if we play the right way.”
McHugh, who took over a once-proud program in 2007 and has done a magnificent job in making it proud again, ended Monday’s practice by reminding his Pirates they are underdogs this week, almost as if it were insulting.
Eventually, he’ll remind them of the team in 2008, which played North Marion in the region championship.
It wasn’t supposed to compete, much less win.
The Pirates played Pasco County competition that year, too.
They were led by a handful of big names, like this year, though it was guys like Tim Saylor, who blocked a kick, and Jarrod Carmody, who forced a fumble in the final seconds, who stepped into Dade City lore.
Pasco won that time, 13-12.
North Marion had been ranked No. 1 in the state.