The price for ignoring Pasco' Page Sessoms was a steep one Friday night: 148 yards rushing and three touchdowns scored, all leading to a 48-7 victory over Land O' Lakes that sewed up a playoff berth for the Pirates.
The Pirate win eliminated the Gators, who needed a win to stay alive. Pasco is now 7-1, 4-0 in Class 4A, District 11, tying it with Hernando for first place. They meet the Leopards in two weeks.
The Gators had to make a choice last night. Without the athletes to cover both Sessoms and Troy Hambrick, they decided to key on the inside game of Hambrick, the county's only 1,000-yard rusher.
The move appeared to be a good one for awhile. Hambrick was stuffed on his first carry, and held to just nine yards on six carries in the first half.
But Sessoms was another story. His first three carries, all outside, yielded 12, 14 and 34 yards, and his fourth was a 6-yard touchdown run to give Pasco a 7-0 lead.
"We've got a lot of different people that can do things," said Perry Brown, the Pasco coach. "They apparently keyed on Troy tonight."
After Land O' Lakes tied the game on Rhett Hierlmeier's 46-yard pass to Kenny Gensler on the next play, Sessoms put Pasco ahead with a 30-yard TD reception with :45 left in the half.
The 14-7 halftime lead was too close for Brown's comfort, as his team had only three first half possessions due to some lengthy Gator drives against the Pirate defense.
"We just told the defense we needed the football more," said Brown, still dripping Gatorade from a post-game dousing.
Yet, they only had it once in the third quarter and still managed 20 points. Sessoms added his third score on a 28 yard run, and Hambrick, who would later catch a 37-yard touchdown pass, picked up a punt and rambled 55 yards down the sideline before cutting it back at the 10.
And the defense? Well, they may not have provided a slew of possessions, but made up for it by scoring a touchdown. Ray Burns broke up a reverse and popped the ball loose with a jarring hit, and the ball bounced into John Baxter's hands. The sophomore raced 66 yards for the score.