DADE CITY — Josh Johnson remembered walking out of the playoffs last year in tears.
The Pasco star battled the offseason questions, the community once again doubting another Pirates team after another first-round exit.
But he couldn't stop smiling after Friday's 37-20 win against Orlando Bishop Moore in a Class 3A region quarterfinal.
The win sets up a rematch with Gulf, whom the Pirates defeated 21-20 in Dade City two weeks ago.
"We didn't want to go home again like last year with sad faces and crying and everything," Johnson said. "We didn't want to have to listen to the fans (doubting us) once again."
Instead, the Pirates (10-1) will have to hear about Gulf all week. The last game was a classic: Pasco using various weapons to fight off the seemingly unstoppable Adrian "Bubba" Golden in the one-point victory.
"It's our rival," Johnson said. "I know every time we play Gulf I have to play 110 percent. I know they're coming at me. We know Bubba's going to run hard. We have to give him something this time. We can't let him get over 100 (yards) again."
The Pirates used a multifaceted offensive attack Friday to overwhelm the Hornets (7-4) in W.F. Edwards Stadium.
Pasco scored on six of its first seven possessions, including a pair of touchdown passes from quarterback D.J. Clower to Johnson for 7 and 26 yards. Clower also punched in a 2-yard touchdown run. And Pirates running back Jamall Haynes broke loose for touchdown runs of 62 and 63 yards. Haynes ran 21 times for 227 yards.
"Josh is a Division I football player," McHugh said. "D.J's a pretty good quarterback and a tough kid."
Pasco led Bishop Moore early with a 20-yard field goal by Brennan Allen in the first quarter. The Hornets took a brief lead at 7-3 after quarterback Eric Connolly punched in a 3-yard touchdown run. Johnson and Clower gave the Pirates a 17-7 lead they would not relinquish.
Now as the Pirates stuff their bellies full of turkey, they can drift off and remember the Week 10 win on their home field that helped them win back-to-back Class 3A, District 8 title, the Sunshine Athletic Conference championship and homefield advantage in the playoffs.
"I understand they're upset we beat them," Pasco coach Tom McHugh said of Gulf. "I would be upset if they beat us. They're going to come in here and bring their best game. We have to work to bring our best game back."
Izzy Gould can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 580-5315.