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North Suncoast Game of the Week: Sunlake 17, Pasco 13

Sunlake wide receiver Nick Valdes can’t contain his jubilation after the Seawhawks’ big win.


Sunlake wide receiver Nick Valdes can’t contain his jubilation after the Seawhawks’ big win.

DADE CITY — Sunlake's formula on offense is to run the ball, shove people around and play with the finesse of a smokestack.

The main beneficiary of this physical approach is running back Nathan Johnson, who gained 1,504 yards last season. Johnson got plenty of carries in Friday's season-opener against Pasco. At times, he was bottled up, but Johnson was able to find enough wiggle room to rush for two touchdowns to lead the Seahawks to a 17-13 victory over Pasco.

It was Sunlake's second straight win in the series. The Seahawks won last year's opener 17-6, snapping the Pirates 44-game win streak against Pasco County opponents that dated back to 2007.

"Pasco was once again a huge challenge for us," Sunlake coach Bill Browning said. "We corrected our mistakes after last week's Steinbrenner game and just came through with a lot of big plays, especially on defense."

Much like last year's game, Sunlake relied on an opportunistic defense and a punishing run game.

In the first quarter, the Seahawks recovered two fumbles, one which thwarted a drive and the other which set up Johnson's 5-yard touchdown run to give Sunlake a 7-0 lead.

The Pirates countered in the second quarter as Jokiah Felder ran 45 yards for a score in the second quarter to tie the game. Pasco had a chance to take the lead but an illegal block wiped a 48-yard run for a touchdown.

In the second half, Johnson was used more as a closer, hammering his 205-pound body into defenders on guileless runs up the middle. Johnson didn't break many runs, gaining just 54 yards. But he scored his second touchdown on a 7-yard run in the third quarter to give the Seahawks a 14-7 lead and his running helped set up a 39-yard field goal by Chris Wilkinson in the fourth quarter to make it 17-7.

Pasco tried to rally, but Sunlake's defense recorded a sack and recovered a fumble to stop one drive. The Pirates scored in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter on Grant Starling's 6-yard TD pass to Brandon Ray, but the extra point was blocked.

Sunlake recovered the ensuing onsides kick to seal the game.

Stars of the game

RB Nathan Johnson, Sunlake: Ran for 54 tough yards, scored twice and did not fumble.

QB Dayton Feiden, Sunlake: Though Feiden only threw for 89 yards, he was effective, turnover-free and kept Pasco off balance.

QB Grant Starling, Pasco: He was 16-of-28 for 139 yards and threw a touchdown in the final two minutes of regulation.

North Suncoast Game of the Week: Sunlake 17, Pasco 13 08/29/14 [Last modified: Friday, August 29, 2014 11:42pm]
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