Two weeks into the regular season, it would have been easy to write off Pinellas Park. The Patriots opened with a lackluster 19-14 win over Osceola, then got swallowed up by the Largo defense in a 35-2 loss.
But like their ever optimistic coach, Kenny Crawford, the Patriots just looked forward to the next game. They set their sights on Dixie Hollins. Then Class 7A-9 opponents Clearwater and St. Petersburg.
The results were comfortable wins in all three games. Without much fanfare, Pinellas Park is 4-1 and leading the district with a 2-0 record. After a game against winless Boca Ciega tonight, the Patriots begin a key three-game district stretch against Northeast, Countryside and Seminole.
Including the St. Petersburg game, Crawford calls this his team’s “four-quarter challenge.’’
“We just play them one at a time with a short memory,’’ Crawford said. “That’s how it is around here. Don’t worry about the last play, good or bad. It works for our kids. They play hard, every play. It’s just the way they are.’’
Unlike last season, when the Patriots relied on three key players — Brandon Hames, Jeremi Powell and Iman Smith — this group has no outstanding player. Instead, things are done by committee.
When the Patriots run the ball, which they do more than 80 percent of the time, at least eight players get a chance. If Pierre Johnson isn’t gaining yards, then Garret Nevitt likely is. If Nevitt gets stopped, then Tahrelle Mosley gets a chance. Or Jaquan Clark. Or Peter Johnson. Or Kel-El Williams. Or Taron Williams.
There are six running backs with more than 100 yards rushing through five games. Johnson leads the way with 318 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns. Nevitt isn’t far behind with 307 yards and three touchdowns.
“We’ve got a lot of backs, a lot who could start,’’ Nevitt said. “If someone starts and gets hot, then they carry the ball. If they get shut down, then we give it to the next guy. Nobody is selfish.’’
And then there is the defense. Since Largo, Pinellas Park has not given up more than 14 points in a game. And against the Packers, two touchdowns came on a fake punt and a fumble return.
Crawford sees his team as a bunch of grinders. The philosophy is tackle hard on defense and let the rest take care of itself.
“We play defense and then try to figure out a way to score,’’ Crawford said. “That’s how we’ve always done it.’’
Rodney Page can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org