DADE CITY — Tallahassee Godby came to W.F. Edwards Stadium boasting a potent offense with six Division I prospects and a pair of U.S. Army All-Americans.
On paper, the Cougars were the Fun 'N' Gun, Run and Shoot and any other dazzling pass-happy offense one could imagine. In person, they were tall and muscular, how one might imagine a state champion-caliber team.
For the better part of four quarters Friday, the Pirates' defense gave its offense a chance in a 28-14 loss in their first Class 3A state semifinal in 16 years.
"Pasco's a very good football team," Godby coach Shelton Crews said. "(Pasco coach Tom) McHugh did a great job of preparation. We were fortunate to win. It's a tough place to play with everyone cheering against you."
The Cougars (12-2) came in averaging 439.1 yards of offense and had thrown for more than 5,500 yards. The Pirates walked away holding Godby to 329 yards and just 138 passing while forcing a pair of turnovers and a botched field goal.
The Pirates (12-2) had a simple game plan: force the Cougars to run.
"We knew they would try to take the pass away from us," Godby quarterback A.J. Graham said. "We relied on the run and it paid off. They did a nice job."
The Pirates limited Florida State commitment Willie Downs, and the primary receiver made his biggest impact lining up in the Wildcat formation.
That allowed Cougars running back Lavorie Johnson to flourish for 149 rushing yards and an 8-yard touchdown to tie it at 7 in the second quarter.
"I guess they were going to double team me," Downs said. "All the focus was on me and the running backs came through with the big plays. That's how the game went."
Pasco came out with fiery hits and a potent defense. Godby fumbled, punted and failed to convert a fourth-and-3 to begin the game. The Cougars reverted to some screen passes to piece together a pair long drives and took a 14-7 lead after Downs' 1-yard touchdown run as the second quarter ended.
Pasco again forced a punt, a fumble and a missed Godby field goal in the third quarter. But Godby put the game out of reach with two touchdowns in three plays in the fourth for a 28-7 lead.
"We tried to stop them from passing," McHugh said. "We wanted them to run, and that's what he did. Sometimes you get a little blood in your eyes and if you live by the blitz you die by the blitz.
"The kids did what they had to do. They did what I told them to do."
Izzy Gould can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 580-5315.