At least Barry Gardner still has his sense of humor. Tonight, he may need it.
Central (2-2) travels to Dade City tonight to play defending Class 3A, District 7 football champion Pasco, which is 4-0 and ranked second to defending 3A state champion Alachua-Santa Fe.
Make that: Central intends to travel to Dade City tonight.
"We'll be there," Central coach Barry Gardner joked, "unless I can sabotage the bus."
Truthfully, Gardner said he is not one to run from a fight. But the realist in him tells the coach this will be less than an even-handed fray.
"It's kind of like going into a gunfight with a knife," he said.
It's not the Gardner doesn't like his Bears, who opened their season with a victory over rival Springstead and also beat Lecanto. It's just that he sees Pasco as, well, something approaching awesome.
Star quarterback Dee Reed and running back Mike Penix are gone to Maryland and Tennessee Tech, respectively (Penix had 72-yard touchdown run against Southeast Missouri State last week). But the rest of the Pirates are back _ and perhaps even better than when they went undefeated in the regular season last year.
"They're all a year older and they all played on that championship team," Gardner said. "Every ballgame we've played, we've put 11 on the field who I think could match up with anyone, but for this one I just can't say that.
"I don't feel this way very often but there comes a time in every man's life."
Central will go to battle with as many players, 18, as Pasco has seniors. And coach Perry Brown's Pirates are coming off a 44-19 thumping of 3A-District 6 favorite South Sumter.
"I just hope Perry's nice to me," Gardner said. "Remember, I've never done anything mean to him."