Junior Joe Freeman broke through the middle for a 50-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter Friday night to propel South Sumter to a 21-14 come-from-behind victory over host Pasco. The Pirates entered the game in command of the Class 3A, District 4 race with a 6-1 district record. The loss drops Pasco to 6-2 in the district and overall.
South Sumter, which lost 55-0 last week to district foe Lecanto, regains life for the district title. The Raiders improve to 5-2 in the district and overall.
"It's not over," Pasco quarterback Dee Reed said. "We're going to go 8-2 and we can still win the district."
The key play of the game came at the end of the third quarter with Pasco leading 14-8. On a first-down play, Mike Penix eluded Tim Dorsey's tackle and ran 49 yards down the left sideline for what appeared to be an insurance touchdown for Pasco.
But an official ruled Penix stepped out of bounds at the 28-yard line. The Pirates mustered minus-11 yards of offense on their next three plays and were forced to punt.
"We were cheated," said Penix, who rushed 18 times for 126 yards and a touchdown. "There was no way I stepped out."
South Sumter capitalized on a fumble to take its first lead of the game. Reed fumbled after being hit hard while trying to pass. The Raiders recovered on the Pasco 12-yard line. Issac Edwards rushed four yards two plays later for the touchdown. Joey Hotten made the extra point to give South Sumter a 15-14 lead with 6:44 left in the game.
After Pasco's next drive stalled, the Raiders went 57 yards in four plays. It was Freeman's 50-yard run up the middle, on a play they ran for the first time this year, that gave South Sumter 21-14 lead with 2:14 remaining.
Freeman finished with 87 yards on nine carries.
Pasco had a chance to tie the game, but Reed's pass attempt to Jeff McSpaddin was intercepted by Dorsey.
Pasco scored on its second possession of the game to take a 7-0 lead with 4:24 left in the opening quarter. Penix capped the eight-play, 68-yard drive with a 13-yard run up the middle for the touchdown.
South Sumter squandered an excellent opportunity to score early in the second quarter after Ron James blocked Travis Loyed's punt.
James returned the blocked ball 10 yards before fumbling. The loose ball was recovered by Taw Norton, and a personal foul penalty against Pasco gave South Sumter a first down at Pasco's 18-yard line.
But two penalties forced the Raiders to go for a field goal. Isaac Edwards' 37-yard attempt was wide to the right.
Pasco took advantage of its good fortune and scored on its ensuing possession. On second-and-11, Dee Reed faked the handoff and then found Jeff McSpaddin wide open in the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown pass. The score gave the Pirates a 14-0 lead with 6:00 left before halftime.
The touchdown was Reed's only completion in three attempts in the first half. Penix did most of the offensive damage for Pasco, rushing for 90 yards on 11 carries.