SPARR — A game that started with promise ended in tears, as Pasco was defeated 17-7 by host North Marion in Friday night's Class 5A region quarterfinals.
"We have nothing to be ashamed of," Pirates coach Tom McHugh said. "We played hard and lost to a good team."
Pasco (7-4) looked like it might be in for a big night after Malik Johns returned the opening kickoff 94 yards to give his team a 7-0 lead. From there, however, the story was the Colts' defense, which entered the playoffs having allowed 21 points combined in the final month of the regular season.
Facing a team that came into the game with nearly 2,000 rushing yards, North Marion (9-2) limited Pasco to 85 yards on 33 carries. And much of that came late, as at the half, the Pirates had negative-1 yard on 16 attempts.
Pasco also was unable to get much through the air, as Johns and Grant Starling combined to complete 4-of-16 passes for 80 yards with an interception.
"They're really good," McHugh said of North Marion's defense.
That said, the Pirates were able to take a 7-3 lead into the half.
But on third and 5 with 7:17 remaining in the third quarter, MNHS quarterback Caleb Seiler was able to connect with Shaq Autry on a screen pass that Autry took in for a 57-yard touchdown.
The Colts added a second score on the first play of the final quarter when James Allen (16 carries for 68 yards) capped a 10-play, 57-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown run.
Autry (seven carries for 53 yards), once again, came up with the biggest play of that series, converting a third and 21 from the Colts' 44 with a 29-yard run.
"What happened (on the opening kickoff) has happened to us before," North Marion coach Matt Johnson said. "We had to persevere. They punched us in the throat, so we had to punch their throat back.
"These are the playoffs, and you're going to see tough teams. We just beat a tough one."
Johns finished with 76 yards on 17 carries.