In a decade’s time, nearly 50 former student-athletes, coaches, administrators, program supporters — and one team — have been inducted into the Land O’ Lakes High Hall of Fame.
The annual Hall of Fame tradition began in March 2013 when the Land O’ Lakes Gators Athletics Foundation was formed as a 501(c)3 nonprofit to raise funds through donations and events to benefit the school’s athletic programs.
Since then, the Foundation has had nine Hall of Fame classes — with no inductions in 2020 and 2021 because of COVID. The monies raised have been used for uniforms, equipment, facilities transportation and other items.
Now, Foundation board member John Childers says it’s time to have an actual Hall of Fame section, with funds raised from the Oct. 3 Induction Dinner and Silent Auction, plus any donations from boosters, allocated to create an extension of the fieldhouse at John Benedetto Stadium.
“When I started the foundation, I went to John Benedetto and he helped me select the first class, pretty much told me where to start,” Childers said. “It’s been amazing that we’ve been able to do this for 10 years now.”
Benedetto suddenly passed away in April 2013, prior to the induction of the first Hall of Fame class. He’d been coaching the Gators for 32 years.
He was posthumously inducted the next year.
With each passing year, more locally famous alumni are brought into the Hall of Fame, each with storied histories of accomplishments and contributions to Land O’ Lakes High’s athletic programs.
Here are the members of the 2023 Class:
Shannon Aitken, girls soccer, Class of 2004
Arguably one of the most decorated student-athletes ever for the Gators, Aitken was a three-sport athlete, but it was soccer that brought her fame and glory. A four-year starting goalkeeper, she was integral to the Gators girls soccer team winning the Class 2A state championship in 2003 — a team that was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016. She won every award, including the Sunshine Athletic Conference Player of the Year and being named to the Class 5A All-State team as a senior. She had the Pasco County record for saves (551) and shutouts (70) during her high school career.
She then moved on to the University of Tampa (UT) and became the Spartans most decorated goalkeeper in program history. In 2007, she was named National Player of the Year as keeper for the Division II National Championship Team. After 59 wins and 197 saves in college, she was inducted into UT’s and the Sunshine State Conference Hall of Fame in 2014 and 2018, respectively.
Aitken is now entering her ninth season (106-34-8) as Steinbrenner High’s girls soccer coach.
Brad Baisley, baseball, Class of 1998
As a three-year letterman in both basketball and baseball, Baisley scored 1,320 points (fourth all time) in the former and was the SAC Pitcher of the Year armed with a 90-plus mph fastball. After graduation, he passed on scholarship offers from Tampa, the University of Miami and the University of North Carolina and signed a baseball/basketball scholarship with the University of South Florida. He was then drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies with the 44th overall pick in the 1998 MLB Draft, being ranked the No. 18 prospect at the time.
In 1999, he pitched a no-hitter for the Phillies single-A affiliate, the Piedmont Boll Weevils in the South Atlantic League, then went on to play seven seasons with the Phillies’, Los Angeles Dodgers’ and New York Yankees’ organizations.
His father is legendary baseball coach Calvin Baisley, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2022, and his son, Logan, is a senior pitcher on the Gators baseball team.
Darrin Wayne Horne, Lifetime Service Award, Class of 1985
Horne has served 14 years as a member of the Land O’ Lakes Booster Club, including time as vice president and director. In addition to his involvement with the Booster Club, he also has previously served as vice president and director of Swampfest. While at Land O’ Lakes, he was a standout football and baseball player, playing for such coaches as John Benedetto (2014), Al Claggett (2017), Bill Gebauer (2018) and Jerry English (2016).
Horne is a constant staple at various sporting events, including managing the concession stands and coordinating the parking facilities. He has helped raise well over six figures for academic scholarships.
Dave Puhalski, basketball coach, Class of 1980 (Michigan)
Hired in June 1989 to guide the boys’ basketball, Puhalski went on to coach the Gators for 33 years. In that time, he coached seven Conference Players of the Year and numerous 1st Team All-Conference Players, with many of them moving on to play at the collegiate level. He racked up 479 wins and six district and conference titles and was named coach of the year several times.
Puhalski retired from coaching in 2020, then from teaching a year later, but the accolades didn’t end there. In June 2022, Land O’ Lakes administration requested the Pasco County School Board rename the school’s gym to be named after Puhalski, to which the board wholeheartedly agreed.
Drew Weatherford, football, Class of 2004
As one of seven Weatherford children to play sports at Land O’ Lakes, Drew was one of the most prolific quarterbacks not only in school, but also in Pasco County history. He set county records for most passing yards (7,657) and touchdowns (79) and was an All-State Player, including in 2022 when the Gators went undefeated and won two playoff games.
All of this made him a highly touted college football recruit, who would eventually sign with Florida State University (FSU). There, he would start three years under former legendary coach Bobby Bowden, pass for 7,567 career yards and win the ACC Championship as a redshirt freshman.
After FSU, Weatherford would spend time in camps for the Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints, as well as spend one season playing for the now defunct Arena Football League team, the Tampa Bay Storm.
Published October 11, 2023