DADE CITY — South Sumter’s hair-on-fire approach didn’t always work Friday. There was the time when the Raiders sprinted off the sideline toward the end zone at halftime, only to suffer the embarrassment of realizing there was time for one more play.
That was about it. Otherwise the Raiders used their never-stop style to roll past Pasco 38-14 at W.F. Edwards Stadium.
The defeat doesn’t end Pasco’s playoff hopes, but it did reveal the difference between it and the district leaders. And if the Pirates plan on earning a playoff spot they may have to go without star Nate Craig, knocked out with what looked like a bad ankle injury.
“Losing Nate, he’s a big part of our team,” said Pasco quarterback Grant Starling. “We have to work hard and win out.”
Craig, whose 30-yard touchdown had the hosts up 7-0, was taken to a hospital.
South Sumter (6-0, 3-0 in 5A-6) scored 24 unanswered points, neutralized Pasco’s speed and forced five Pirate turnovers before a playoff-sized crowd. The Raiders ended with nearly 500 yards of offense.
Pasco (2-3, 0-2) started the game off in a power backfield, with Andrew Ivie and Brandon Debyah blocking for Malik Johns, and he went for 21 yards on the game’s first four plays. Then Craig took a pitch for an easy score and it looked like the Pirates were in business.
Phillip Wilson ended South Sumter’s only decent first-quarter drive with an interception. But as Pasco’s offense began to sputter, it left the defense with little time to rest — and the Raiders took off.
Jordan Dietz picked off Starling to start the quarter, and a 27-yard pass gave the Raiders a boost. Levi Sapp found Ladovick Gibson for a 56-yard score, making it 7-7. Johns fumbled at his own 22-yard line, but the Pirates held South Sumter to a field goal thanks to strong run stuffs by Debyah and Jayvaughn Myers.
The last part of the half turned things around. Jaquan Clower’s 24-yard run had the Pirates in position to respond, but on fourth and 1 from the Raider 12, Clower came up short. South Sumter then went 88 yards in 10 plays, a 40-yard pass to J.T. Taylor and a 22-yarder to Gibson setting up Anderson Faulk for a 1-yard run with 1:44 on the clock.
“Their hurry-up offense really got to us, especially since we have a lot of players going both ways,” Debyah said.
Sapp’s last four passes of the half were all complete and covered 145 yards. He attempted only two more throws and finished 9-of-14 for 177 yards. J.T. Taylor ran for 98 yards, Anderson Faulk added 79 and fullback P.J. Brown got in on the act with 27 and a score.
Johns ran for 105 to lead Pasco. He also caught four passes for 29 yards and turned quarterback for a struggling Starling , who went 4-for-12.
Pasco still has a good outlook at least for forcing a possible three-way tie for second place. Hernando’s win over Nature Coast helped. It means if the Pirates can top Hernando and Zephyrhills, all it would likely need for a second-place tie is for Nature Coast to lose to South Sumter.
The Pirates forced three turnovers, with J.D. Edwards and Cameron Crews recovering second-half fumbles.