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PASCO PIRATES // Pasco puts its wheels in gear

(ran PT, CI, HT editions)

Don't blink or you may miss some subtle changes in the Pasco High football team.

Hoping to capitalize on exceptional speed, coach Perry Brown has switched from a 50 defense with five down lineman to a 40 defense with four down linemen and four linebackers.

Brown hopes the change will help Pasco compensate for lack of depth in the interior and take advantage of several gifted athletes who will play both ways.

"We'll run multiple defenses and the 40 will be the base," Brown said. "This has allowed us to move some kids into positions where they can help us a lot more."

Two of the key moves have been from defensive end to linebacker. Last year's starting ends, Rob Roberts and Jon Baxter, will play inside and outside linebacker respectively. The move will particularly help the smallish Baxter, said new defensive coordinator Terry Voyles.

"Baxter's not going to get hammered at end like he did last year," Voyles said. "He's got a lot of speed and we think he can pick up pass coverage real well. We've got some players who can get to the ball. They can get after you."

The speediest is free safety A. J. Jones, who was also the premier receiver in the area last year. It's doubtful Jones and his 4.4 speed will get beat deep.

Jones, however, should do more than his share of damage on offense. He caught 15 touchdown passes from Artie Meza last year and gives Pasco a passing threat that should open up the run.

That's crucial because Pasco will be without a Hambrick in the backfield for the first time in five years. Suncoast Player of the Year Troy Hambrick is off to junior college and big brother Darren has landed at the University of South Carolina.

A new crop of Pasco runners must step forward, as Cleo Stinyard, DeShawn Southward and Morgan Evans will try to make the Pasco "Fling-T" go.

Here's a closer look:

Passing: Meza to Jones clicked 15 times last season and the pair hope to continue the trend. If Jones draws double coverage, that may leave open big tight end Ray Burns or someone out of the backfield.

Running game: The run is still Pasco's strong suit and Brown will use several backs interchangeably. Baxter will spell the starting trio. Evans will play fullback and Southward and Stinyard will play slot back and running back.

Offensive line: Big changes for the Pirates here as Roberts, last year's starting tight end, moves to tackle. "Rob is a smart kid who has picked up the position well," Brown said. "We expect him to make a big impact."

The Pirates do have decent size, with each starter over 225 pounds except three-year guard Jeremy Jones (180). Pasco, however, lacks experienced backups.

"As long as our starters stay healthy we'll be fine," Brown said. "We'll throw a good starting 11 at you. If we got hurt, then we may have some problems."

Defensive line: Bobby Searight, the 6-4, 318-pound junior, has been described as a man among boys. His coaches say he plays that way too. But the knock on Searight is that he rests on too many plays, and coaches have been trying to mold him into better shape.

Kevin Bryant (230 pounds) will play the other tackle and Burns (236) and Kentay Frazier (250) are the ends.

Linebacker: Baxter, Roberts and Jones will play both ways and give Pasco size and speed. In the 40 alignment, Roberts and Jones will play inside and Baxter outside. The other position will likely go to one of the starting running backs.

Defensive backs: Southward and Stinyard at the corners join Jones, with Evans available to substitute.

Kicking game: Jeremy Gude returns as kicker and punter and has a proven strong leg. Brown said Pasco will use the short pooch kickoff of last season until he gains confidence in his coverage.

The coach: Brown guided Pasco to the 1992 state Class 3A title with a 14-0 record and the Pirates advanced to the second round last season before losing to eventual state champion Alachua Santa Fe on a late touchdown. Brown is eager to duplicate those feats.

Outlook: Three powerhouses are part of the new Class 4A, District 9, including rival Tampa Jesuit and Seminole Osceola, which went 10-0 in the regular season the past two years. Jesuit has beaten Pasco two straight years, but Pasco's size and speed may prove to be the class of the district.

AT A GLANCE

Coach: Perry Brown, seventh year (50-19).

Assistant coaches: Terry Voyles, Wendell Maples, Lex Smith, Brad Starling, James Walters, Rick Giles, Paul Lepisto.

Colors: Red, black and white.

Stadium: W.F. Edwards Stadium on campus on State Road 52 in Dade City, 7 miles east of I-75).

Class: 4A, District 9.

State titles: 1992 (3A).

Playoff history

1977: Lost to Bartow 39-8.

1983: Beat Bartow 36-27; beat Orl. Jones 29-13; lost to Palatka 18-13.

1991: Beat Eustis 28-7; lost to Alachua Santa Fe 35-16.

1992: Beat St. Cloud 33-13; beat S. Sumter 37-0; beat Pace 21-17; beat Jesuit 28-16.

1994: Beat Lakewood 37-7; lost to Alachua Santa Fe 34-27.

1994 results (10-2)

at Tampa Jesuit 20-14 L

at Zephyrhills 27-14 W

at Gulf 35-28 W

Central 53-12 W

South Sumter 36-19 W

at Hudson 34-0 W

at River Ridge 29-16 W

Land O'Lakes 48-7 W

Zephyrhills 46-7 W

Hernando 61-7 W

Class 4A state playoffs

Lakewood 37-7 W

Alachua Santa Fe 34-27 L

Did you know?

Pasco High alumnus Lex Smith, who was a quarterback and special-teams player at the University of Florida, is a first-year assistant at Pasco, coaching the offensive and defensive backfields. Smith started one game at quarterback for the Gators as a redshirt freshman in 1989 but switched to defense the next season. He graduated in 1992.

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