Just a few weeks ago, Pasco had an unsettling sense of deja vu.
In a game at Hernando, when those black jerseys and white helmets kept charging with plenty of steam in the fourth quarter, some Pasco players began thinking about last season’s breakdown.
Sure, it was a preseason classic, but the Leopards didn’t see it that way. John Palmer’s boys knew this was a chance to avenge a 2009 48-0 preseason loss at Pasco. It was a chance to show how far the program had come entering his third season.
Pasco won 14-3, but not before gaining respect for a team it had crushed just a year ago.
Last year, a 32-7 regular-season loss at South Sumter rattled Pasco to the point it was looking for an identity.
“It was pretty depressing,” Pasco senior Mark Landry said. “…We weren’t the hotshots we thought we were before the season.”
So what happened that night in Bushnell? Was South Sumter that good, or was Pasco that bad?
In Dade City, there was a sense players were riding the coattails of the 2008 Class 3A state semifinal team.
“We got beat bad,” Pasco coach Tom McHugh said. “I think (the players had a) sense of entitlement. Sometimes when you think you’re good …you go out and they think they can stomp a mud hole in someone. They were lackadaisical. When we went up there maybe we read our own press. Everything we did up there we did wrong.”
That made this year’s Hernando preseason classic significant.
Toward the end of the night McHugh remarked on Pasco’s lack of intensity and energy.
So leading into the Pirates’ season opener against Plantation American Heritage last week, quite a bit of focus was on conditioning.
“We practice for two and a half hours,” McHugh said. “We run for a half an hour. We run 1,600 yards in sprints. At the end of two and a half hours you are running more than you would possibly run in a 48-minute high school football game. Then sometimes I take them to the hill and overtime is what we call it.”
When Pasco (1-0) steps onto the grass at W.F. Edwards Stadium tonight to take on South Sumter, expect a focused team. Expect a well-conditioned team. Expect a team ready to move on from lessons learned.
“I had never been in a situation where kids had a sense of entitlement,” McHugh said. “For three years they had been winning. …Maybe we got lackadaisical. Maybe the kids thought they would lay down and they were going to win. I think we’re ready.”