With college football and the NFL seasons winding down, some die-hard football fans may be looking to fill the void.
In Pasco County, that's where the Pasco County Hitmen adult amateur football team comes in. The Hitmen, founded in 2005 by New Port Richey local Julio Rodriguez, started off as a six-man football team in the Florida Six-Man Football Association (FSFA) and didn't find much success until the latter two years as a program in 2010 and 2011. Rodriguez's club won back-to-back league championships after battling through tough campaigns from 2005 to 2009.
In 2012, the Hitmen decided to make the move to the more traditional 11-man style of American football and went 7-4 competing in the United Football Federation (UFF).
"Our objective from day one was to give young talent an opportunity to continue playing football and keep them off the streets," Rodriguez said. "We try to stay active in the community as much as we can. We have had numerous players from Tampa to Largo, play for the Hitmen. We are a family based team and strive to stay family oriented."
Players' ages range from 18 and up, and, according to Rodriguez, some players 40 or older have even come out to try and strap back on the pads. Some familiar names that played prep football within the county pop up, as former River Ridge standouts and brothers, Sam and Markel Bell, have been intricate pieces to the Hitmen's success the past few years.
Other former Pasco County prep players that play for the Hitmen are Travis Hendrix (Anclote), Markus Tominus (Mitchell) and Rod Boutin (Ridgewood). Last season, Pasco County was quarterbacked by former Gulf standout Madison Burr and one of his favorite targets, Hector Collazo, was also a Buccaneer in 2004.
Boutin is a fifth-year veteran of adult amateur football, playing previously for the Pasco Panthers and Pasco Poison, and last year, helped lead a defensive unit that allowed only 12.3 points a game.
"Compared to high school and college, it is 100 percent the speed of the game," Boutin said. "The speed of the adult amateur game and college is actually comparable. Our league compared to high school, the game is faster. A lot of the guys within the football league seem like they were good enough to move onto the next level, but maybe it just wasn't their time. The game is less of a job and a lot more fun."
Heading into this 2013 season, the Hitmen will compete in the UFF's Central Division, which includes the Central Florida Rampage (Ocala), West Coast Soldiers (Hudson), Suncoast Cobras (Tampa) and the Brooksville Ballers. Rodriguez's bunch will have a tough road ahead, not only looking to reach the postseason, but the Hitmen's first regular-season game will be on the road against the I-4 Ironbacks of Deltona.
The UFF's United Cup III championship game will be played June 1 at Clearwater High, and the Hitmen, which reached the second round of the postseason before losing 40-21 to the Anclote Pirates, are eyeing a trip to just a little south into Pinellas County come summer time.