Pasco feels like its old self again.
Although, getting there didn't feel so great.
"No one expects to go into the season and lose their first game, preseason or not, especially with basically the same team," senior defensive lineman and Florida-commit Joey Ivie said. "A lot of us feel we got ranked pretty high in the preseason, which is a good thing, but most of us like being the underdog. We play better that way."
After a 21-7 loss to Brooksville Hernando in the Kickoff Classic, the Pirates will once against relish the underdog role heading into tonight's game against cross-county rival Land O' Lakes (1-0) in Pasco's season opener. However, the Aug. 24 loss seemed discouraging for Pirates faithful who were looking for more from a team coming off its second state semifinal berth in the past four seasons that tragically ended, 41-38, in triple overtime to eventual state runner-up Crawfordville Wakulla.
"This week and that loss has been motivating for us," said senior running back David Emmanuel, who had a team-high 1,325 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns in 2011. "We're going to use this to get everyone back on our side because we feel like the underdogs coming into this one. … After that loss, some people turned their backs on us, but this week should open their eyes."
Despite the Leopards defeating the Pirates for the first time since 1999, there are many factors to consider in the loss. Pasco didn't have the ever-impressive athlete Janarion Grant, who missed the game due to a left ankle injury. Also, coach Tom McHugh was using the preseason game to try new things, such as seeing new players in a game situations, including new defensive players and how junior backup quarterback Ben Chandler handled drives. Chandler ended up throwing a 81-yard interception TD to Tyrail Hawkins, plus Emmanuel lost two fumbles.
"Losing to Hernando, that wasn't fun, but I did try a lot things in the game just because I wanted to see what would happen," McHugh said. "They didn't take anyone out. They had players cramping up. It's a loss, but we were doing different things that night."
"That one really hurt, but they worked harder than us, and we were out of position, so we need to be in position and stay that way," Emmanuel added. "This week will be a surprise (to a lot of people) not expecting us. Surprise, surprise."
Pasco will face a Gators team that, last week, dug itself into a 14-0 hole to Zephyrhills, but the Gators scored 31 unanswered points for a 38-27 win. Those are just more motivational factors that allow the Pirates to feel like underdogs.
A welcome feeling.
"This team does have a lot of potential," Ivie said. "We just had to get back at it because this team can do a lot if we put our head to it."
"What more motivation do you need when you get waxed?" McHugh added. "It has (been a tough couple of weeks preparing for Land O' Lakes), but you've got to play the cards you get dealt, so we're going to do the best with it. I think the tools are all there, but they don't let me play. They know what to do and all they have to do is do it."