LAND O’LAKES — Pasco’s Division I darling was cramping and its offense was sputtering when the whispers started on the Sunlake sideline.
Pasco’s streak ends tonight.
Two quarters later, those murmurs turned into roars after the Seahawks handed the Pirates their first Pasco County loss in more than five years in Friday night’s season-opening 17-6 upset.
“They’ve been king of the county for a long, long time,” Sunlake coach Bill Browning said.
Until the Seahawks’ defense dethroned them, at least for one night.
Sunlake (1-0) dominated from the start, with two sacks in the first four plays, and Austin Yeloushan forced one of Pasco’s five fumbles.
The Seahawks took advantage with Logan Wolfe’s 15-yard rush and Jacob Guzman’s two-point conversion late in the first quarter.
Pasco (0-1) responded immediately. Malik Johns fumbled the ensuing kickoff, scooped it up and raced 95 yards for a score that cut Sunlake’s lead to 8-6.
But Sunlake’s defense shut the high-powered Pirates offense out the rest of the way. Johns and standout sophomore Nate Craig combined for only 86 receiving yards, and both battled cramps on a muggy evening.
The Seahawks sacked Pasco’s Ben Chandler five times, with Ben Wood adding a fumble recovery and Guzman intercepting a pass.
“This feels like the Super Bowl, man,” said Yeloushan, who finished with three sacks. “This is the best day of my life.”
Sunlake extended its lead on the first play of the third quarter. Wolfe, a 5-foot-10 junior, took a handoff, found a gaping hole and rumbled 64 yards for a game-sealing score.
“I was surprised,” Wolfe said. “I didn’t know I had that in me.”
The Pirates could never get closer.
They advanced into the Sunlake red zone twice in the third quarter. Wood and Yeloushan stuffed a Jaquan Clower rush inside the 5 on one fourth down, and Wood dropped Clower for no gain at the 20 on the next possession.
The Pirates never seriously threatened again, prompting coach Tom McHugh to call his team’s offense “non-existent.”
The defeat was Pasco’s first in the regular season since a 32-7 loss at South Sumter in September 2009 — a streak of 38 games.
The Pirates hadn’t lost to a Pasco County opponent since a 14-7 defeat to Zephyrhills in October 2007 in McHugh’s rookie season.
They won the week after that contest, throttling Sunlake 42-0, and rolled to 44 consecutive county wins before facing the Seahawks again on Friday night.
“I told the kids, 'We were the chosen ones to end it,” Browning said after receiving a Gatorade shower for one of the biggest victories in his program’s history. “They came out and did it.”
Matt Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MattHomeTeam.