James Thompson explained the Pasco Comprehensive High football team's version of the domino theory. "You knock the opponents down one by one, just like dominoes," the senior tailback said. "It's not all at one time."
"We just needed to knock over the first one to get them started."
The Pirates need to knock over only two more opponents _ starting with South Sumter at home at 8 tonight _ and they are district champions for the first time since 1983 and the third time in their history. The other big challenge will be Tampa Catholic on Nov. 2.
Last year the dominoes were wobbling but not falling for Pasco. The Pirates lost their last seven games in 1989 and extended their losing streak to eight with a season-opening loss to Zephyrhills.
But then the first domino fell Sept. 14. Pasco knocked over Lecanto 55-0. That is all it took; the Pirates are now 6-1.
That is triple their total victory count of last year, when they were outscored 280-116 en route to a 2-8 record.
This month the halls of Pasco High have been buzzing with talk about a Class 3A, District 4 cham
pionship. It was only a few weeks ago that those same halls were buzzing with talk about the Pirates' past failures.
"Nobody gave us any respect, not even our friends," Pasco junior quarterback Dee Reed said. "Everybody kept saying on Fridays that we were going to lose. Now on Mondays they tell us we're doing good."
"We really thought we would go even, 5-5," said junior Mike Penix, who leads the Pirates rushing attack with 81 carries for 419 yards and four touchdowns. "But we've got things going our way."
Tampa Catholic and Tampa Jesuit are both 5-1 in the district. Pasco already has defeated Jesuit (6-2 on Sept. 28) and it will face Tampa Catholic on the road Nov. 2.
South Sumter also had only one loss in the district entering last week. But it was involved in the biggest upset of the area this season when it became Lecanto's first victim in 17 games, 16-8 last Friday.
"That's good and bad," Pasco coach Perry Brown said about South Sumter's loss. "It's good that Lecanto won because it gives South Sumter a second district loss. It's bad because they (South Sumter) will be out to prove it was a fluke."
Thompson said South Sumter didn't adhere to the domino theory.
"I think they (South Sumter) thought they would have no problems with Lecanto and were looking ahead to us," he said.
Brown has been concerned that his team might look ahead, too. All week he has preached that South Sumter still is a good ball club.
"I've been in coaching 14 years to know that you can't look past anybody," Brown said. "We can't worry about Tampa Catholic this week."
Reed and a group of Pasco players, who had just finished practice Wednesday, said their coach's message has come through loud and clear.
"No, we're not even thinking about Tampa Catholic," Reed said. "Everybody tells us that we beat Lecanto 55-0 and South Sumter lost to Lecanto, so we should beat South Sumter easy. But we know that's not true."
South Sumter's loss to Lecanto came during its homecoming. Tonight is Pasco's homecoming.
"We're not doing anything in homecoming," said sophomore running back Darren Hambrick. "We're just worrying about football."
The Pirates said they know they have to stop South Sumter's Dexter Brooks, a strong and fast running back. But South Sumter's task is more difficult. Pasco, which relies primarily on the running game for its offense, has five players who have rushed for at least 176 yards and two touchdowns: Penix, Reed, Hambrick, Thompson and Chris Roberts.
But it's Pasco's defense, nicknamed the "Killer B's," that is the major reason for the 6-1 record. After giving up 19 points to Zephyrhills, the Pirates have allowed just 30 points in its six victories.
"We've taken our time in the weight room seriously," Reed said. "No jiving around this year like we did last year."
"We like to hit _ hard," Thompson said. "We like to play defense."