PALM HARBOR — There were few who thought Palm Harbor University could beat Tarpon Springs in last week’s season opener. The Spongers were too talented, the experts said. Too explosive. Too much.
The Hurricanes didn’t listen. They believed. And for just the second time in school history, PHU beat one of its biggest north county rivals, 31-9.
“I don’t think there was anyone who thought we could beat Tarpon Springs,” quarterback Billy Pavlock said. “Everyone counted us out. But we knew we could do it. It’s something that has given us a ton of confidence.”
Riding the emotional high from that victory, PHU enters Friday’s game against Pinellas Park with a chance to start 2-0, which the program has never done.
“The biggest thing we needed this season is to get off to a fast start,” Hurricanes coach Mark Haye said. “We couldn’t get into a hole and have everyone start saying, ‘Oh here we go again.’ I think we shocked Tarpon. We just have to keep it going.”
Haye was hoping for the same thing last season, his first as a varsity coach. But PHU started the year by losing quarterback Ja’Tyuan Landing. That forced Pavlock, who was playing receiver, to take over. The Hurricanes struggled, winning just two of their first seven games.
PHU finished 2009 by winning two of its final three to give some glimmer of a hope for a turnaround this year.
“Billy was thrown into the fire last year,” Haye said. “We had to change our playbook. But now he’s had a year in the system, and it’s unlimited the things he can do. We’re not afraid to throw anything at him.”
A quarterback who is adept at running the ball as well as throwing it, Pavlock gives the Hurricanes plenty of options on offense. He performed well in 7-on-7 tournaments this summer, helping the Hurricanes win the championship at a tournament in Largo.
The skill players were there. But Haye is particularly pleased with the offensive line, which returns nearly intact from a year ago.
“I feel we’re really good on the line on both sides of the ball,” Haye said. “We’re not the biggest group, but we’re strong, athletic and very quick. And they’ve been in the system for a year.”
Pavlock, who rushed for two touchdowns last week, thinks the line will be play a key role Friday.
“Whoever is the most physical up front is going to win.”