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River Ridge is one of the Pasco County high school football teams hoping to get past the regional semifinal round.

Don’t look now, but prep football is already brewing in the air.

Though the regular season for the 2019 season doesn’t start until later this fall, prep football’s spring practice period begins on April 22nd and many of Pasco County’s teams will be out on the field trying to squeeze every bit of possible time that’s allowable.

With no team from Pasco going any farther than the region semifinal round, many programs are seeking to take the next step towards being an elite club. We take a closer look at some teams and what to watch for in the spring as practices near.

Familiar face in a different place

Jason Messamore is back as a head coach in Pasco County and for his second stint he takes over at Anclote High School. The former East Lake and Palm Harbor University assistant found brief success coaching at Gulf High School before having to resign due to personal reasons.

Now reinvigorated, Messamore steps into the saddle with the Sharks replacing longtime head coach-defensive coordinator Matt Kingsley. Messamore led Gulf to one postseason appearance and if his two seasons with the Buccaneers says anything, it’s he can coach up talent. This spring will be a learning process for Messamore and the players in meshing.

Pasco hoping to get it right with Stokes

It’s been a tough past few years for Pasco High School, as the Dade City school let go of Tom McHugh, the man who helped orchestrate two state semifinal appearances for the Pirates.

With McHugh out and now at Wesley Chapel High School as an assistant, the school decided on hiring former Gaither High School head coach Jason Stokes, who is familiar with the area. Stokes, who previously coached at Lake Region prior to Pasco, brings proven head coaching experience and is expected to have the Pirates to compete immediately.

The rise of neighboring programs like Zephryhills Christian Academy and rival Zephryhills haven’t helped Pasco’s cause, but winning will solve a lot of the Pirates’ issues. If Pasco can come together quickly this spring and have a good showing, many will take notice in a hurry.

Who will be the surprise of the spring?

One team that will be looking to bounce back after a lackluster season on their terms is River Ridge High School, which missed out on the postseason for the first time since 2014 under Ryan Benjamin.

The Royal Knights the past four seasons had seemingly found creative new ways to keep themselves ahead of other teams but just missed out on reaching the Class 5A state playoffs.

Despite losing all-around athlete DJ Mann and quarterback Kyle St. John, the Royal Knights have their heir apparent to the signal caller position in Travis Hawks, who is the younger brother of former River Ridge starter Trevor. This spring will be an opportunity to build the chemistry between Hawks and the receivers.