Pasco High preparing for next step in Stokes’ era

DADE CITY — The Pasco Pirates football program boasts a deep-rooted history that no other team in Pasco County can match. That's primarily because the Pirates own something no other school in the county can match: a state championship trophy.

That’s just one of the reasons why head coach Jason Stokes and his staff have been working hard to turn around the culture of Pasco football. The effort's paying dividends and it was noticeable last season, as the Pirates made strides in the right direction.

Yes, every team in the state of Florida had the opportunity to reach the postseason, but Pasco was able to get by the opening round and compete in the second. Pasco defeated Lecanto 9-8 to win its first playoff game since 2013. Coming off a 20-17 spring victory over Sunlake, the Pirates are riding into the 2021 with some higher expectations.

“I think the biggest key is continuity,” Stokes said. “Kids understand what is expected at practice and as well when it’s time to compete. So we just try to keep that going. We talk about building good character all the time. Not having an offseason last year really, really hurt with no football, period. Having this offseason this year really helped."

Pasco played in the spring against Sunlake with fewer than 20 kids, but was able to come away with a win. That was one of the building blocks heading into the offseason. Now the Pirates will be leaning on key returners to help bring the team back into the Class 6A postseason.

Sophomore Jayvion Johnson looks to be the team’s starting quarterback, after seeing some playing time as a freshman. Johnson helped guide the team to a playoff win and can make plays with both his legs and arm. Johnson is related to former Pasco star Josh Johnson, who currently plays defensive back for the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Johnson will get help on the offensive side of the ball from running backs Ethan Ayo and EJ Redfield. Both are expected to see plenty of touches out of the backfield. Pasco also has experience on the offensive and defensive lines.

The Pirates dropped a close Kickoff Classic against River Ridge, 13-12, Friday night. They'll  kickoff the regular season Aug. 27 against a Zephyrhills Christian Academy team that should give Pasco a good idea where its at in 2021. Though the overall roster numbers are down, what the Pirates lacks in bodies they make up for in togetherness and teamwork.

“We have a saying," Stokes said. "Every day you either get better or get worse. We are always striving for perfection. It's definitely night and day compared to when me and my staff first got here. I’m really happy with the progress.”

Players to watch

RB/LB/DB, EJ Redfield

WR/FS, Omarion Harrison

QB, Jayvion Johnson

RB/LB, Ethan Ayo

LB/DE, Javon Jeune

OL/DL, Cody Tadlock

OL/DL, Corbin Smith 

Andy Villamarzo can be reached at andyvillamarzo@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.