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SOPHMORE SURGE

If legends are going to be born, there's no better place than W.F. Edwards Stadium.

And there's no better time than now.

After starting 0-2 for the first time in more than 20 years, Pasco's second-year coach Dale Caparaso was trying anything he could to resuscitate the dormant Pirate empire. So he made a switch at quarterback, replacing senior Kyle Hobbs with sophomore Tony Smith. Smith calmly stepped under and stole the show, throwing for 211 yards and four touchdowns to lead Pasco to a 62-6 win over Hernando.

His performance came not a moment too soon for a team that was desperate for a spark.

"Why did we go with a sophomore at quarterback last week?," Caparaso said. "We were 0-2. That's why."

Caparaso was not the only coach who entered a new arms race. Last week, two other teams, Land O'Lakes and Zephyrhills, shoved inexperienced quarterbacks to the forefront, giving them a shot at becoming the big guns of the future. Gators sophomore Joe Weatherford, whose older brother Drew started the past four years and is now the No. 2 quarterback at Florida State, made his first varsity start against Wesley Chapel.

Weatherford upheld the family's good name under extraordinary circumstances, playing admirably in a 15-0 loss to a Wildcats' team that owns a 13-game regular season win streak.

Meanwhile, Zephyrhills coach Tom Fisher, who started 0-2 for the first time since 1992, turned to sophomore Sederrick Cuningham, an escape artist who can beat defenders with his feet as well as his arm.

Cunningham did just that, rushing for a game-high 80 yards on nine carries, including a 70-yard touchdown, and completing 2-of-6 for 47 yards and a 35-yard touchdown to help the Bulldogs beat River Ridge 19-0.

"I was hesitant to start Sederrick at first because he was young and I wanted to give some other guys a shot," Fisher said. "But he was someone that gave us a different threat, and I just felt it was time."

Tonight, Cunningham will face another sophomore, Gulf's Alton Voss. That's four of the nine county teams who have sophomore quarterbacks.

"It's unusual to have that many so early in the season," Fisher said. "Hopefully, they all pan out."

Coaching wisdom often favors experience over raw talent, especially at quarterback, where the mental burden is so great.

For Smith, the burden was initially too much. The first time he stepped under center for a Kickoff Classic against Souther Sumpter, he saw defensive linemen snorting, linebackers filling gaps, cornerbacks pressing receivers.

That made for a jittery debut.

"Our goal was to have Tony be our starting quarterback, but he panicked," Caparaso said. "He told me he got antsy in the pocket and wasn't ready to be a quarterback."

So Caparaso switched Smith to running back and named Kyle Hobbs his starting quarterback. But after an 0-2 start Caparaso knew it was time use Smith's athleticism to offset defensive pressure and decided to unleash one of the most gifted athletes in the county.

"Tony Smith is a playmaker," Caparaso said. "He has a solid arm, great vision and understands the concept of getting the ball to Dominic Brown. But he also is smart enough to know when Dominic is not there, to go to the No. 2 receiver."

After one start, Smith is already turning heads. But tonight comes pressure. Smith faces Jacksonville Trinity Christian, the two-time defending Class A state champions.

"They're a good team," Smith said of Trinity Christian. "I've watched them on tape and they're real fast. I hope I can keep up with them."

If Smith can perform well against a team of that caliber, he can add to his status as a legend in the making.

What better time than now.

Up next:ONE ON ONE

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