The first in a weekly series detailing happenings around the Times' five-county circluation area, encompassing Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas.
For a quarter century it has always been thus:
Pasco won, and Hudson lost.
For a quarter century, for 20 straight meetings, the Pirates always bested the Cobras. Nearly all of the meetings between the Pasco County rivals have been mismatches. The handful that didn't end with a Pasco win, and a sigh of relief.
Until Friday night.
Hudson demolished Pasco 42-22 at Cobra Stadium.
No, that's not a misprint. It is history. The end of two decades offutility and perhaps the end of the Cobras' reputation as a team that was always close to respectability _ but never close enough.
"I don't even know the words," first-year Hudson coach Mark Nash said. "It's bigger than anything profound I can come up with. I feel minute compared to this."
The loss shook up the Class 3A, District 9 race and thrust the Cobras into unfamiliar territory: the playoff chase. Nash's No. 1 goal this season was to rewrite the school's sorry history. He's getting there. Hudson hasn't been to the postseason since 1979. That was the year the Cobras won their only district title and made the only playoff appearance in their 30-year history.
It was also the last time they beat the once-vaunted Pirates.
Hudson's win Friday can't be written off as a mere fluke, or an upset. The Cobras were clearly the better team entering the game, piling up 94 total points in two previous routs.
Cobras running back Nate Toole rushed 19 times for 164 yards and three touchdowns. Quarterback Kyle Hatcher ran in a 1-yard score and hit fullback Rich Gibson with a 2-yard TD pass. The Cobras took a 21-0 lead, then the lead closed to two touchdowns, until scoring runs by Toole and Hatcher in the fourth quarter decided it.
Pasco has the athletes, but hasn't come close to putting it together this season. But the Pirates were consistent in one respect: penalties. Pasco's lack of composure and discipline aided Hudson with 14 penalties for 116 yards.
The Pirates must still have been reeling from the loss the week before. Mitchell's 41-13 win Sept. 11 ended Pasco's eight year, 30-game win streak against west Pasco County foes. Not only are the Pirates 0-2 this season (Hurricane Frances erased their opener) but both losses were routs against westside foes.
Talk about history. Pasco hasn't been 0-2 in more than a decade, while Hudson is 3-0 for the first time since 1996.
And further north
Hudson wasn't the only team to end a long drought against a county opponent _ Citrus ended an eight-year streak of futility against Citrus County rival Crystal River with a 28-0 win.
The Pirates' hold over the Hurricanes was shorter than Pasco's over Hudson, but might have been more dominant. In eight years, Crystal River outscored Citrus 348-47 and owned the county in impressive fashion.
While Citrus was going 25-57 and Lecanto was 23-58 in that span (with both teams notching an 0-10 and 1-9 season each), Crystal River was 73-19 and went to the playoffs every year but two.
Truly an end of an era.
First-year Plant coach Robert Weiner was in the booth last fall, not on the sidelines. But during a one-year stint at Crystal River, he didn't call plays, he announced them.
"The regular guy couldn't make it, so I volunteered," Weiner said. "Then they asked me to keep doing it."
Weiner stayed away from football to concentrate on his position as baseball coach. The job was his first as a head coach, and he says the experience was invaluable.
"There are so many other logistical things you have to take care of that have nothing to do with coaching," he said. "You've got to learn to juggle with that and to apply coaching the best you can. That's the key to coaching."
Weiner was a 15-year Jesuit football assistant before landing at Crystal River. He earned football win No. 1 Friday when Plant defeated Leto 10-7 thanks largely to Lawrence McClure's 58-yard field goal. The Panthers are 1-1.
Top weekend performers
Largo's Dexter McCluster ran for 223 yards and three touchdowns, and caught a pass for a score. McCluster, who fought off cramps all second half, had a back-breaking 80-yard touchdown run to seal a 44-42 win over Dunedin.
Gaither running back Ovie Esalomi scored four touchdowns and ran for 135 yards in the first half against King. The Cowboys led 51-0 by that time and won 65-12.
Durant running back Matt Stwan had 16 carries for 171 yards and three scores in a 51-14 win over Bloomingdale.
Hernando running backs Fabian Jackson and Chad Sanders both ran for more than 100 yards as the Leopards beat Ridgewood 30-21.
Northeast's Joe Gamble had three rushing touchdowns in a win over East Lake, giving him five this season.
Shorecrest's Jacob Stein scored every point for the Chargers _ he ran for three touchdowns, kicked two extra points and ran for a two-point conversion.
Palm Harbor University's Levi Curnette, Alex Glover, Peter Welling, Graham Sheldon and Aaron Haas each swam on two winning relays as the Hurricanes dominated the Pinellas County Athletic Conference championships with 467 points, 144 more than second-place St. Petersburg.
East Bay cross country runner Paige Williams (19 minutes, 34 seconds) and Jefferson's Evander Jones (16:56) won the individual titles at Don Bishop Memorial in Brandon.
Janet Okogbaa had 21 kills and five blocks and setter Katie Theifilos had 43 assists to lead Berkeley Prep's volleyball team to a five-set victory over archrival Tampa Prep.
Dunedin safety Shrome Hargrove had two interceptions, giving him five in two games this season.
_ Compiled by John C. Cotey,
Keith Niebuhr and Jamal Thalji