Pasco Pirates off to solid start

Just a few weeks into the regular season, the Pasco High football team already has surpassed its win total from all of last season.

In fact, they’ve doubled it.

Pasco High head coach Tom McHugh, in his 11th season, has a career mark of 83-35, which includes a string of seven straight playoff appearances from 2007 to 2013. (File)

The 2016 season was unpleasant for the Pirates, losing nine straight games until they beat Gulf High — a struggling program that’s now lost 22 straight regular season games — in the season finale.

The 1-9 record was its worst since 1978, when Jimmy Sessoms coached the team.

The struggling campaign was a surprise to many, considering the Pirates often have been one of the county’s upper-tier programs under longtime head coach Tom McHugh.

McHugh, in his 11th season, has a career mark of 83-35, which includes a string of seven straight playoff appearances from 2007 to 2013.

Additionally, under McHugh, the Pirates have produced some of the county’s top players who have gone on to collegiate and professional careers, including, defensive tackle Joey Ivie (University of Florida/Dallas Cowboys, defensive back Josh Johnson (Purdue University/Canadian Football League/Jacksonville Jaguars), athlete Janarion Grant (Rutgers University) and defensive back Jayvaughn Myers (Auburn University).

Yet, perhaps the biggest disappointment to the Pirates’ faithful wasn’t the abysmal 1-9 record, but its devastating 46-0 home loss to Zephyrhills High in the annual 9-Mile War — oftentimes a one-sided affair in which Pasco High claims the all-time series record 40-19.

This season, however, appears to be a strong contrast to last year.

The Pasco High Pirates have rebounded from last year’s dismal 1-9 mark. The 2017 squad features 17 seniors, including middle linebacker Cameron Smith. (Courtesy of Tom Ketchum)

The Pirates handily won its first two contests over both Hudson High (22-10) and Gulf High (46-0), and proved dominant in its preseason game, a 36-18 victory over Ridgewood High.

And, unlike the 2016 season, the Pirates have a bevy of experienced depth, both on offense and defense. This year’s roster features 19 seniors. Last year’s had just seven.

Besides a steady, game-managing presence at quarterback in junior Doug Crawford, the Pirates display an explosive rushing attack currently averaging more than 200 yards per game — thanks to a trio of runners in senior Jaleel Hansberry, and juniors Early Knight and Jacquez Mobley.

The defense, too, has shown an ability to create pressure and limit opposing yardage, early on.

It also doesn’t hurt that the Pirates have three reigning All-Sunshine Athletic Conference players in senior offensive lineman/defensive tackle Camron Craig, senior middle linebacker Cameron Smith and senior defensive lineman Cody Mercer.

The Pirates, meanwhile, have several winnable games on their 2017 slate.

In addition to facing upstart Cypress Creek Middle High at home, the Pirates should match up well against Superior Collegiate Academy, along with district foes Sunlake— which appears to be in a rebuilding year — and Land O’ Lakes high schools.

But, contests against the likes of Mitchell, Springstead and Zephyrhills high schools should determine how good this team is.

And, how far it will go.


–Stats compiled by

Published September 13, 2017

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