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Pirates' passer builds on a block

It's known as the "PO" block. Perhaps Pasco High football coach Perry Brown should rename it the 20-20.

That's because the block that Pasco offensive linemen execute on defenders causes them to drop their hands. And that clears a path of vision for diminutive quarterback Artie Meza.

"The linemen hit them hard in the middle and that makes them lower their hands," said the 5-foot-7, 150-pound Meza, who preferred not to be more specific in defining "middle."

"And that way, I can see downfield."

Meza had no trouble finding his receivers Friday in a 46-7 rout of arch-rival Zephyrhills. He fired four touchdown passes and was 7 of 10 for 167 yards to lead Pasco (8-1) to its eighth consecutive victory.

And when his lineman weren't doing the "PO" block, Meza was busy reading Zephyrhills' defense and calling audibles. He called one on his second touchdown pass to A.J. Jones when he noticed the Bulldogs' strong safety up near the defensive line, just like on his first TD pass to Jones.

Meza took two steps back and threw the ball as far as he could for Jones, who was wide open for a 59-yard score. Jones made a spectacular one-handed reception and cruised to the end zone with his 4.4 speed.

"I love the way Artie lays the ball out there," said the sophomore. "On that second touchdown, I just held my breath and said a prayer that I would catch the ball. Sure enough, I did."

Meza had hit Jones for a 31-yard touchdown pass on Pasco's first possession. He also threw touchdown passes for 15 and 2 yards to tight end Rob Roberts.

"It's all a matter if timing," Meza said. "I don't have the strongest arm but I know where to put the ball."

So does running back Troy Hambrick. In the end zone. Hambrick had a pair of 6-yard touchdown runs to increase his season total to 18. He also has 1,197 yards rushing and 4 interceptions at strong safety.

"It was just another night with my boys," Hambrick said. "And that Artie Meza. Whew. He had a great game."

Meza said the passing opened up the run.

"When they saw we could pass they couldn't key on the run so much," Meza said. "And then we hurt them on the run."

Indeed, Pasco gained 280 yards rushing and had 447 total yards.

Pasco was stingy on defense. Zephyrhills (6-3) managed just 81 yards rushing and standout quarterback Donnie Pinkerton was held to 124 yards passing, completing just 8 of 26 attempts with four interceptions.

Pasco kept constant pressure on Pinkerton as Roberts and John Baxter bore in from defensive end.

"We're starting to get the job done," Hambrick said. "We're coming together."

And that's just in time for Friday's showdown with Hernando. Both teams are 4-0 in Class 4A, District 7 and have clinched playoff berths. But the winner gets the district title and a home playoff game against the 4A-8 runner-up in the first round. The loser will have to play at undefeated and state-ranked Osceola, the 4A-8 champ.

"It's always a big game with Hernando and this one's really big," Meza said. "We're playing well and hopefully we'll keep doing it."