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Pasco faces a key test tonight

Inman Sherman is no fool. You won't hear him bad-mouth rival Pasco High. Oh no, quite the opposite.

"Pasco is the complete high school football team," said the South Sumter coach. "They have no apparent weakness. And that Johnson kid? I think he's a better quarterback than the one they had last year."

Sherman is referring to Dee Reed, who just happens to be at the University of Maryland this season and led Pasco to an undefeated regular season last year.

Johnson is Issac Johnson, who inherited the starting quarterback position from his cousin.

"Johnson's more mobile than Reed," Sherman said. "He's faster and he throws better."

By the way, Sherman could have added, we have a pretty good football team too, with two good quarterbacks.

The Raiders are 3-0 and offer Pasco, also 3-0 and the state's second-ranked Class 3A team, its first real test since the state playoffs last season. The teams meet tonight at 8 at W.F. Edwards Stadium in Dade City.

Home-field advantage to Pasco? Ha. South Sumter is 9-1 on the road the past two years.

"We play tough on the road because we don't put as much pressure on ourselves," Sherman said. "Of course, we turned that around this year. We're 3-0 at home. We've been pleasantly surprised with our first three games.

"We knew we had the potential, but I was concerned with our lack of experience. But we've progressed as the season has gone on and I think we have a pretty good team, yes."

A pretty good team that thrashed Hernando, at one time the state's seventh-ranked Class 3A team, 35-14 last month.

"We weren't expected to beat Hernando, but we played extremely well that night," said Sherman, whose team has won seven straight games over the past two seasons. "We might have caught them off guard. Our offensive line did a super job of blocking and that made the difference."

So did the two quarterbacks. Sherman employs an unusual system of alternating them on each play. The quarterbacks are sophomore Clinton Hart and junior Jarod Davis.

"That way we keep them both involved in the game with no apparent difference between one QB and the other," Sherman said. "We did it initially to give Clinton experience, and so far it has worked so good, I have no reason to change it."

And sometimes, when Sherman needs to talk to his backfield, he has a Hart-to-Hart conversation. Kelly Hart, Clinton's brother, is South Sumter's top running back with 370 yards and six touchdowns.

"I think you'll find he's a pretty good player if you get a chance to see him play," Sherman said of Kelly Hart.

Using Hart to control the ball on the ground will be the key against Pasco, Sherman said.

"We're going to have to control the clock and keep the ball out of their hands," he said. "To have a chance to win, we'll have to execute. We're going to have to stay within our game plan and not turn the ball over. We've done that fairly well the first three games."

Defensively, the Raiders must contain Johnson, Sherman said. Johnson is 14-of-27 for 294 yards and five touchdowns. He has not thrown an interception.

"We don't want to give up the big play," Sherman said. "We've got to put pressure on Johnson and try to contain him. We don't do a lot of blitzing _ we just try to play good solid defense."

And as if playing the state's No. 2 team is not incentive enough, the Raiders are out to avenge last year's 42-0 loss to Pasco.

"They beat us pretty good last year," Sherman said, "and that'll help stimulate us a little bit, you might say."