LAND O'LAKES — Renaming their stadium after a longtime former coach and a victory promise by a well-known politician and ex-player Friday were not enough to stave off a dubious skid for the host Gators.
Land O'Lakes lost its sixth straight game, 18-6 to Class 6A, District 6 rival Sunlake. The Seahawks (5-2, 3-2) kept their faint playoff hopes alive while the Gators (1-6, 0-5) continued to struggle.
"I am just so overwhelmed and feel so honored," said John Benedetto, who coached Land O'Lakes for 32 seasons and is Pasco County's winningest coach at 196-149.
House Speaker designate Will Weatherford, one of six brothers to play for Benedetto, lauded his former coach and vowed the Gators would win.
Sunlake's running tandem of Eddie Burgos and Josh Zifer had other ideas. Burgos rushed for 82 yards and a touchdown while scrambling quarterback Zifer gained 97 yards. That offset a game-high 137 rushing yards by the Gators' Harrison Wood.
Field goals played a major role with Andrew Dowler converting two to pull Land O'Lakes within 8-6 at halftime and Connor Gilboy kicking a 21-yarder early in the fourth quarter to give Sunlake an 11-6 lead.
Will Alvarez added a 1-yard plunge into the end zone in the waning minutes to clinch it for the Seahawks.