Nothing beats a good fall campaign. Obama-McCain. Alexander the Great and the Persian Wars. The iPod. Pasco County football. Someone get me a "Gators in '08" bumper sticker …stat! Where can I pick up a picture of Zack Wynn kissing Joey Knight's new baby? Does anyone know who Ricky Trinidad's running mate will be? The best part of campaign season, though, are the sound bites. And since (most of) the Pasco and Hernando County coaches are too darned nice to say anything too controversial (at least on the record), I'm being forced to put words in their mouths to keep with the theme of this special section. Here are some sound bites I predict for the upcoming season:
Sept. 5, 2008
"I actually did vote for the spread offense …before I voted against it."
Who will say it: Mitchell coach Scott Schmitz is asked before the season opener against Gulf about the loss of quarterback Tate Humphrey. After a few years of opening things up, Schmitz is going back to the Wing-T.
The vote?: Good move by Schmitz. His best teams at River Ridge ran the Wing-T, he's familiar with it and the personnel mandates the move. Besides, I'm not going to be the one to call Schmitz a flip-flopper.
Oct. 9 2008
"I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience."
Who will say it: The week of their huge district showdown, Tarpon Springs coach George Kotis says it's time for Land O'Lakes coach John Benedetto, left, to retire and for the Spongers to return to glory. While being held back by defensive coordinator Al Claggett, a chafed Benedetto utters his famous quote.
The vote: Benedetto deserves a new four-year term! As for Kotis, he must have forgotten Benedetto helped settle Tarpon Springs in the late 1880s when he was known as John Bendepolopagus. And Claggett was a top sponge diver in his youth, until the Great Depression drove him into the lucrative business of high school coaching. (And that, ladies and gentlemen, concludes my yearly requisite age joke about the long-standing Gators staff.)
Sept. 19, 2008
"When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad: 'Where's the beef?' "
Who will say it: Tom McHugh gets into the spirit of 9-Mile War Week, addressing Zephyrhills' chances of knocking off his Pirates. Pasco is a beefy bunch this year, and word on the street is that Zephyrhills coach Tom Fisher has 18 kids on his roster, 11 of whom weigh less than 130 pounds. Just saying.
The vote: Sure, the Bulldogs will be small in 2008. But unless you want to be drinking sludge from the taps during water breaks instead of some of that sparkling, refreshing Zephyrhills water, watch the beef jokes, okay? That said, the Bulldogs are still a 50-50 bet to make the playoffs because, well, Fisher is coaching them.
Sept. 5, 2008
"Coach, you're no Dub Palmer.''
Who will say it: Some dude in the stands who played one season of junior varsity ball and has to leave the game at halftime to make it to his shift at the Waffle House, as the Leopards fall behind the Bears 21-0 in new coach John Palmer's first home game since coming back to Brooksville.
The vote: Throw that guy out …NOW! Sure, John Palmer is going to face high expectations because his dad was kind of a stud in local coaching circles. (If you call 232 wins, five state titles and zero losing seasons studly. …I do.) But give the guy some time. Read my lips: In the end, he's going to win more than he loses.
July 13, 2008
"I am learning to get online myself, and I will have that down fairly soon, getting on myself. I don't expect to be a great communicator, I don't expect to set up my own blog, but I am becoming computer literate to the point where I can get the information that I need."
Who will say it: At least every coach, at least once, when his football stats don't run for some reason.
Vote: I kid, because I love. Besides, it's an excuse to squeeze an earmark in this column for highschool.tampabay.com. Oct. 3, 2008
“It's not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion …to explain their frustrations."
Who will say it: Nature Coast Jamie Joyner will be struck by the frustration of Pasco fans when his Sharks come into Dade City and walk out with a victory. Joyner tells reporters he sure hopes the Pirates win a state title soon, because even he is sick of hearing about 1992.
The vote: Time to face facts: 1992 is over. Pasco will probably never win a state title. Ever again. But the Pirates will always be one of the best things going in the county. And at the end of the season, the fine folks in Dade City will always have 1992 (to steal another campaign quip, there I go again) to keep them warm during the winter months.
Nov. 16, 2008
"Who am I? Why am I here?"
Who will say it: After a second straight 0-10 season, Sunlake coach Bill Browning is seen muttering to himself in his office as he starts drawing up plays for next year. Starting a new program is tough business, and skipping the whole junior varsity warmup season usually means 2-3 lean years to start.
The vote: The Seahawks will come close one time to victory. They will be tied with someone after three quarters before suffering another double-digit loss. It will be the kind of moral victory that boosts the spirits and gives Browning answers to his own question.
John C. Cotey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.