BROOKSVILLE — In a rivalry that started way back in 1925, there have been many circumstances in which Hernando and Pasco have met on the gridiron. But Friday's meeting at Tom Fisher Stadium carried some extra weight.
A contest decided in the trenches was won by the Pirates 7-0, opening the door for Pasco, after a slow start, to control its destiny for a playoff spot in Class 5A, District 6.
"Nobody likes to lose, and we haven't experienced much of that the past few years," Pasco coach Tom McHugh said. "I can't say how proud I am of these guys and the way they've battled."
Led by defensive end Jacob Morphew, the Pirates' front seven controlled the interior. Hernando (2-5, 2-2) found almost no room to run the ball, seven ball carriers combining for 42 yards on 21 carries.
Quarterback Tyler Kline had even less success. Plagued by seven drops, he completed 2 of 14 passes for 18 yards.
Pasco (4-3, 2-2) leaned on its defense for most of play, and the experienced group responded. Along with Cameron Crews (half-sack, pass deflection), Andrew Ivie (half-sack) and Bowman Archibald, Morphew dominated the line of scrimmage. Morphew sacked Kline and backup John Colman twice during the first half, giving him a team-high 7½ on the season.
"I watch a lot of film," Morphew said. "(Former NFL star) Michael Strahan said he never used the same move twice, and I've tried to do the same thing."
The offense didn't have to do much, but what it was able to achieve came from Malik Johns (27 carries for 103 yards and one touchdown, 1-of-1 passing for 13 yards). The unexpected return of Nate Craig (two catches, 19 yards) from an ankle injury did not produce much statistically. But his presence gave the Pirates their full complement of weapons with Jaquan Clower (17 carries, 53 yards) filling out the trio.
Jeremiah Jackson, wearing No. 42 for the first time in 2012 in honor of his late uncle and former NFL All-Pro Jerome Brown, did everything he could to keep the Leopards in the contest.
After gaining only 26 yards of offense in the first half, Jackson went 19 on his first touch of the second. Defensively, he was consistently in the backfield, forcing a fumble and accruing four tackles-for-loss.
"That Jeremiah Jackson is very strong and very fast," McHugh said.
"We'll be watching him (in college) next year."