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COUNTDOWN RECAP

NO. 2 _ DOMI-GATOR: Boys ruled at Land O'Lakes in 2000 as the baseball, basketball, soccer, wrestling and football teams all enjoyed fine seasons.

Coach Cal Baisley's unit was the only baseball team in the county to defeat _ and sweep _ vaunted Zephyrhills. Coach Dave Puhalski's basketball team ruled the county and the district. Soccer coach Mark Pearson took his team back to the final four. Coach Ed Goodpaster oversaw two state wrestling title-winners. And football coach John Benedetto saw his best class yet close with its fourth consecutive playoff appearance.

NO. 3 _ ONE NIGHT, FIVE TITLES: Pasco County enjoyed one of its finest prep moments and county wrestling its finest evening ever as five wrestlers won state titles and another earned the runner-up silver at the state finals at The Lakeland Center.

Hudson's Pat Rieli (103) and Robb Philippus (215), Ridgewood's Joe Mendoza (119), Land O'Lakes' Jimmy Gaulden (160) and Adam Nuru (275) all won gold while Pasco's Tye Reedy won silver (189).

All in a night's work.

NO. 4 _ THREE ACES: Derek Thompson. Kurt Shafer. Cory Doyne.

All three belonged to Land O'Lakes' ace pitching staff last season and all three were selected in Major League Baseball's amateur draft. Thompson went in the first round, the 37th pick overall, to the Cleveland Indians as a supplemental pick. Shafer was taken by the Pittsburgh Pirates with the 239th pick in the eighth round. Doyne went to the Houston Astros eight picks later in the ninth round.

All three signed contracts, completing a historic draft for Pasco County.

NO. 5 _ COBRA CRAZIES: It had the most vociferous following in Pasco County, and no wonder, for Hudson's volleyball team gave the Cobra Crazies plenty to cheer about.

The Hudson dynasty enjoyed perhaps its finest moment in the second game of the Class 4A semifinals as the Alison Baker- and Nikki Prack-powered Cobras overcame a 14-6 deficit against Titusville Astronaut, scoring 10 consecutive points to win 15-12, 16-14.

The No. 1 team in the Class 4A poll for most of the season, Hudson lost 15-12, 15-6 to Clearwater in the championship match. But it was still a season to savor.

NO. 6 _ NO MAS: Option No. 3, as the Florida High School Activities Association innocently called it in 1998, was a redistricting plan that led to disastrous results for Pasco County football during the course of the shellshocked 1999 and 2000 seasons.

Stuck in disparate districts spread out across the Tampa Bay area, against far more talented teams from far more densely populated areas, Hudson, River Ridge, Pasco, Wesley Chapel and Zephyrhills were an atrocious 2-34 combined against their foes from Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

Thankfully, the 2001 season will be one of new districts and renewed rivalries.

NO. 7 _ FOUR TIMES A LADY: Gulf's Barbara Carr became the second runner to win the Sunshine Athletic Conference championship four times in her illustrious career.

Running in the footsteps of the last four-time champ, Jackie Waller, Carr's last race was the best race of her career, as she won handily with a new SAC record of 18:43, beating Ridgewood's Lizzy Leigh by 29 seconds, Carr's largest margin of victory.

NO. 8 _ DOGGONE IT: Entering that fateful Nov. 10 road game at Zephyrhills, Pasco County was a futile 2-21 against the Land O'Lakes juggernaut since 1997.

But no more.

The Bulldogs pulled out all the stops in handing the Gators their first county and SAC loss in two seasons in a thrilling 33-25 victory in the finest game of the 2000 season. Zephyrhills finished 5-5, but still claimed the SAC title thanks to Wesley Chapel beating Pasco, while Land O'Lakes had to settle for a playoff berth.

NO. 9 _ CHAMPIONS AGAIN: They are Pasco County's only two-time state swimming champions, and River Ridge's Kevin Rumble and Hudson's Amanda Paulo did it while successfully defending their titles from the previous year.

Paulo again won the 100 backstroke, swimming it in 56.20, a second faster than Northeast High's Heather Skaggs, who competed in the Olympic Trials. Paulo also won silver in the 50 freestyle. Rumble again won the 200-yard individual medley with a career-best time of 1:52.86 and won bronze in the 100 backstroke.

NO. 10 _ RAM TOUGH: Ridgewood left its woeful football history far behind in 2000, compiling an impressive 4-6 record during a year that saw the Rams turn from Homecoming favorites to Homecoming champions.

They rallied from a 21-7 deficit to beat Lecanto, snapped a six-game losing streak against Gulf with a 27-11 win, beat rival Hudson 26-14 and routed Wesley Chapel behind Mike Cassagnol's school-record 258 yards rushing to win the first Homecoming game in years. They also snapped a 23-game home losing streak by winning at Ram Booster Stadium for the first time since 1995.

Pasco, Zephyrhills and Palm Harbor U. also barely escaped with victories against revitalized Ridgewood.

_ JAMAL THALJI, JOHN C. COTEY

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