TARPON SPRINGS — It’s a new day at East Lake. And if you need any convincing, consider: With just a few minutes left in the game, typically conservative coach Bob Hudson, with a 10-point lead, had his sophomore quarterback throw a pass to his freshman receiver for a touchdown.
“Look at me,” he said afterward, almost sheepishly.
Who is this guy?
The old East Lake coach would have run the ball three times and pooch kicked it.
This new guy?
Hudson is reinvigorated these days. For the first time since he’s been at East Lake, he is starting freshmen — wide receiver Artavis Scott and offensive lineman Mason Cole — and throwing the ball out of the shotgun with his young sophomore quarterback, Pete DiNovo.
The Eagles are young and good and getting better, and Hudson is excited about the possibilities, even if he won’t allow himself to dwell too much on anything but the possibility of beating Clearwater next week in the district opener.
But DiNovo, Scott and Cole are certainly something to think about.
In their first game against arch-rival Tarpon Springs, they all played big roles. It was the first time in 23 years that the Eagles had beaten the Spongers in consecutive seasons, and with only 21 seniors out of 137 players in his program, it may be just the beginning of a long streak.
“It was pretty exciting,” said Cole, the only freshman lineman Hudson has ever started. “I was nervous, but after that first hit, it went away.”
It was a block, by the way, and Cole says it was a good one. “I definitely had the upper hand.”
DiNovo threw the ball 25 times, completing 13 for 193 yards. He also ran for a short score.
“We were ready,” he said, and his fresh-faced brethren all nodded.
“We belong here,” said Scott, who had that 28-yard touchdown catch that squeezed the Spongers dry.
Hudson said before Scott ever showed up, people were telling him stories. In one youth league game in Oldsmar, he supposedly had five touchdowns in a half.
“True story,” Scott said.
And DiNovo is brimming with promise. Unless Largo’s Juwan Brown beats him to it, he’ll be the best quarterback in Pinellas County in 2011 and 2012.
Scott and DiNovo, DiNovo and Scott. The first time they hooked up, it was for a 90-yard touchdown in the preseason classic. The second time? A 30-yard touchdown against St. Petersburg.
Thursday night, more of the same, with Scott getting behind a defender and hauling in a perfect pass.
“They were showing cover 2, and their guy rotated into cover 3 and came up and pressed,” DiNovo said. “We knew we had the matchup.”
While Tarpon Springs looked lifeless and listless, East Lake looked ready.
“We think big things are coming,” Cole said.
“We going to get stronger, and we’re going to get better,” Scott said.
“One game at a time,” DiNovo said.
Next week, it’s unbeaten Clearwater, in a district game.
“Hey, we treat all these as district games,” DiNovo said.
The trio relived the game’s big moments a few yards away from where Hudson was wrapping up his postgame comments.
Three kids, chatting away, laughing.
“We feel like were supposed to be here,” Scott said. “We’re supposed to be here."