This week's Game of the Year is here. No more heated town hall debates over Stevie vs. D.J. No more gazing at the second hand of the classroom wall clock. Tonight, Land O'Lakes visits Pasco in what promises to be a game that could knock the earth off its axis. Kickoff is at 7:30. Land O'Lakes coach Matt Kitchie, meet Pasco freshman Janarion Grant and his thunderous cannon. Pasco defensive back Jamie Byrd, you might want to keep your eyes on the following Gators: Tyler Peak, Alex Robinson, Will Irwin and Jason Tello. Alex Mathis, do your Gators have the horses to keep up with Mitch Wozniak, Chaise Dunn, Hakeeme Ishmar? Did we mention Grant yet? It's all on the line tonight. No more talk of untested teams, weak schedules and inflated statistics. This week's winner will be one step closer to the Class 3A, District 7 championship and — more importantly — a playoff berth. But not before Sunlake and Mitchell have something to say about the district title.
About Land O'Lakes
Undefeated: The Gators are 6-0, but none of those opponents has a winning record with a combined record of 8-27. Land O'Lakes, however, has shut out three opponents and held two to seven points or fewer. Its toughest game was a 48-30 win over Gulf in which the Buccaneers trailed just 26-24 after three quarters. Most impressive: the Gators have outscored opponents 253-43, making them one of the bay area's highest-scoring teams.
He's back: Quarterback Stevie Weatherford transferred to Tampa Catholic last spring, then back to Land O'Lakes before taking a single snap. He has flourished, passing for 924 yards, 16 touchdowns and just two interceptions, both of which came in a 14-0 win over Zephyrhills. Weatherford has completed 62.6 percent of his passes.
Sacks are our thing: Nature Coast transfer Gary Myrick has been a nice addition to the defensive line. At 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, Myrick has 34 tackles and 71/2 sacks. And his presence has opened it up for Spencer Michelson (six sacks), Anthony Kasperitis (41/2 sacks) and Mathis (two sacks).
They only score touchdowns? Land O'Lakes has just one field goal this season: Brennan Stack's 21-yarder in a 52-0 win over Ridgewood in the opener.
One-loss Pirates: Pasco was overwhelmed in a 32-7 loss at South Sumter in Week 2. Since then, the Pirates have won four straight by a combined score of 187-19. Pasco has scored no fewer than 38 points a game since and allowed no more than seven a game, including a 38-0 shutout of Gulf.
The power of Clower: Pasco quarterback D.J. Clower has a nice supporting cast of receivers, but anyone watching him the past three years simply knows he's becoming a better quarterback. Clower has thrown for 1,040 yards, 11 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Freshman phenom: Forget the second coming of former Pirates star Josh Johnson. This is the first coming of freshman Janarion Grant. Combined rushing and receiving, Grant has compiled 615 yards and eight touchdowns with at least one in all but one game. He had 120 yards receiving and two touchdowns in his first varsity game, then 100 yards and a touchdown on four carries last week against Anclote.
Just for kicks: Pasco senior Brennan Allen is having quite a season. Allen has made field goals of 50, 49, 50, 35 and 46 yards. He has made 28 extra points and has 28 touchbacks in 41 attempts. He's also averaging 36.3 yards per punt.
Izzy Gould can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 421-3886.