The games are often memorable, complete with big plays, bitter moments and some of the best athletes this area has seen. Tonight marks the 33rd meeting between Pasco and Land O'Lakes, and would you believe the series is even at 16 wins each? The series has been played every year since its inception in 1976, the Gators' second season of existence, with the Pirates winning the inaugural game 20-7. The Gators registered their first win of the series in '78, 27-19. The longest win streak in the series was when the Gators won four straight from 1986-89. But perhaps no game lived up to the hype of the '92 meeting when both teams entered the regular-season finale 9-0. Pasco won that one 27-10 en route to a 14-0 season and the Class 3A state title. Tonight begins what should be another exciting chapter. A few memorable meetings this decade:
2007 Pasco 15, Land O'Lakes 10
The Tom McHugh era began with a dramatic come-from-behind victory thanks to a 77-yard touchdown reception by Pirates receiver Demetrious Larry — his only catch — with less than five minutes remaining. Pasco had led 7-3 when the Gators committed a key fumble in the third quarter on the Pirates' 7-yard line. Land O'Lakes fought off the miscue when Ely Payne connected with Nick Castellano with six minutes remaining for a 10-7 lead. Both teams won district titles and advanced to the playoffs.
2006 Land O'Lakes 28, Pasco 22 (OT)
A hard-hitting game turned into a postgame brawl that overshadowed a stunning finish. Gators running back Jerome Blyden gave the Gators the win on a 2-yard run before the defense stopped Pasco cold on four consecutive running plays to end the game at the Gators' 1-yard line. Pasco had trailed most of the game before McClain Bryant scored a touchdown and a two-point conversion with 4:30 left to tie the game. Gators quarterback Joe Weatherford completed 10 of 25 passes for 223 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions.
2005 Pasco 22, Land O'Lakes 21
In the final three minutes, Pirates quarterback Tony Smith hit receiver Darrell Davis with a 40-yard touchdown pass for the winning score. Land O'Lakes made it interesting on its final drive with running back Scott Mays converting a fourth-and-4 and quarterback Joe Weatherford connecting with Develin Robinson on a 40-yard pass. But the Gators fumbled on the 22-yard line, and the Pirates' Mike Onyskin swallowed up the ball. The win overshadowed a stellar night by Mays, who rushed for 170 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
2000 Land O'Lakes 20, Pasco 15
The Gators pulled out a great escape, pouncing on three Pirates fumbles. The last turnover came on the Gators' 13-yard line with 13 seconds left. Gators running back Godfrey Pestana rushed for 140 yards on a season-high 28 carries.
Izzy Gould can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 580-5315.