PIRATES 9 PANTHERS 8
DADE CITY – Pasco High’s been in rebuild mode for an extended period but took a nice step in the right direction Friday night.
The Pirates participated in a playoff game for the first time in seven years, hosting Citrus Lecanto. Friday’s 9-8 Class 6A region quarterfinal victory marked Pasco’s first in the postseason since reaching the Class 5A region finals in 2012.
And it definitely didn’t come easy.
Defense dominated, penalties played a major role, and a little good fortune certainly helped the Pirates move on to this year’s second round.
While Friday night’s game in Dade City wasn’t decided until the final moments, a sequence in the final seconds of the first half may have been the most critical.
Locked in a scoreless tie with under a minute to go in the second quarter, Pasco took over possession at its own 4-yard line. The Pirates just wanted to run the clock out and get into the locker room. That proved difficult.
A second-down run went for minus-3 yards and the Lecanto sideline and road bleachers wanted a safety on the play, considering Pasco running back Malcom Gibbs ended up in the end zone. Officials ruled his forward progress had him down at the 1. Two plays later, on fourth down, from the 1, a last-second heave resulted in an interception by Lecanto’s Clayton Thomas. The junior linebacker took it back about 25 yards all the way to the left-side pylon, but officials ruled the ball did not break the plane. This, of course, did not please anyone wearing green and gold or pulling for the Citrus County squad going for its first-ever playoff victory.
The call stood and both teams went into the halftime break in a scoreless tie.
Pasco broke that tie on the first drive of the second half. The Pirates went on a 15-play, 8-minute drive from their own 20 that ended with Gibbs breaking off a 26-yard touchdown run. The drive appeared to be stalling out, due to a pair of holding penalties that took Pasco from Lecanto’s 6-yard line back to the 26. Gibbs took care of that issue.
Pasco missed the extra point, but its 6-0 lead held into the fourth quarter, as both defenses refused to budge.
Friday was also about as run-heavy as it gets. Both teams combined for (unofficially) 86 snaps. Seventy-five were running plays and the teams’ combined four completions went for a combined negative-3 yards. Pasco rushed 48 times for 192 yards and Lecanto rushed 27 times for 122 yards.
What proved to be the game’s pivotal moment came with about 3 minutes to play. Following back-to-back turnovers on downs, a botched Lecanto punt snap gave Pasco possession at the Panthers 15-yard line. Three plays got Pasco to the Lecanto 11 and kicker Juan Sanchez buried a 28-yard field goal to put the Pirates ahead by two scores, 9-0.
Lecanto did not go away.
The Panthers took over at the Pirates 44. A 15-yard Pasco penalty took Lecanto to the 29. Three straight incompletions left the Panthers facing fourth-and-10 from that position. Then sophomore quarterback Amir Wilson made a broken play turn into a 29-yard touchdown run that ended along the Pasco sideline that had Pirates coaches screaming that he stepped out of bounds well before reaching the end zone.
Similar to the denial of Lecanto’s half-ending arguments, the call held. Senior Zaire Wilson ran up the middle for a two-point conversion and the score was suddenly 9-8 Pasco with 1:41 remaining.
Rather than going for an onside kick, Lecanto sent the ball into Pasco territory and the Pirates recovered at their own 12. Two victory formation kneel downs later, Pasco was a postseason winner for the first time since beating Gainesville Eastside in the 2012 Class 5A region semifinals.
Lecanto was going for its first-ever playoff victory. The Panthers reached the postseason twice prior to this COVID-19 2020 format, losing in the first round in 1999 and 2015. Lecanto does finish its truncated season at 4-3, giving the Panthers their first winning season since 2015.
Pasco improves to 5-5 overall and will head southwest into Pinellas County for next week’s Class 6A Region 2 semifinal game at Countryside (7-3). The Cougars advanced after winning 21-7 on the road at Springstead.
L - 0 – 0 – 0 – 8 --- 8
P - 0 – 0 – 6 – 3 --- 9
P – Gibbs 26-yard run. Kick (Sanchez) – 3rd Q (3:53)
P – Sanchez 28-yard FG. – 4th Q (1:41)
L – Wilson 29-yard run. 2-pt. run (Wilcox) – 4th Q (0:48)
L – Wilcox (15-69), Wilson (3-23, TD), Henry (5-37).
P – Redfield (18-84), Gibbs (15-66, TD).
L – Wilson (2-8 for (-2)).
P – Johnson (1-2 for (-1), INT).
L – Henry (2-4).
P – Lee (1-(-1)).