LAND O’ LAKES — Pasco may have finished last season 2-8 and not made the playoffs since 2013, but with a new coach Jason Stokes guiding the team, the Pirates are looking to quickly turn around the once proud program.
The Pirates ran the ball at will to the tune of 311 yards, as Pasco rolled to a 35-14 win over Land O’ Lakes Monday night at John Benedetto Stadium. The game was a continuation from Friday night after an issue with the stadium lights postponed play. The win for Pasco is victory No. 1 for Stokes.
“This win means a lot to these kids after everything they’ve been through,” Stokes said. “This all confirms everything we’ve been preaching to the kids and that is the hard work will eventually pay off.”
That hard work paid dividends on both nights, as Pasco jumped out to an early 7-0 lead on an 18-play drive. It started on the Pirates’ own 1-yard line and saw six different players touch the ball. The drive that was capped off on a 11-yard scramble by junior quarterback Devin Jernigan (2-of-6, 34 yards) in the first quarter. Junior tailback Malcolm Gibbs was the focal point on Friday night. He finished with eight carries for 115 yards and a touchdown.
Gibbs scored on a 88-yard scoring run on Pasco’s third drive of the game after Land O’Lakes turned the ball over on downs. Up 13-0, the Pirates looked to continue their march into halftime, except the lights decided not to cooperate.
With the game re-starting Monday evening, Pasco (1-0) didn’t seem to miss a beat. The Pirates drove down the field on their first possession after the restart and scored on a 3-yard touchdown run by Jernigan. Pasco stayed relentless, running the ball at Land O’ Lakes’ defensive front seven, rushing 39 times in comparison to six passing attempts. The Pirates finished with 345 total yards of offense.
Land O’ Lakes’ (0-1) inability to avoid penalties and dropped passes hurt all game long. Gators starting quarterback Ethan Forrester has a difficult time finding any rhythm and ended the game 14-of-23 for 172 yards, a touchdown and interception. The Gators were held to just 238 yards of offense.
It is now a short week for both teams, as Land O’ Lakes will travel down to Clearwater to face Countryside and Pasco hosts Sunlake. Stokes mentioned managing bodies will be a huge part of the week.
“This week will be all about managing bodies during practices,” Stokes said. “We might hit one time this week, but that’s it. We’ve got Sunlake this week at home and there’s going to be a lot of emotion going into that game. Home opener and we just got done repainting the stadium. It’s a big game.”