It'll be at least three weeks star ATH Janarion Grant, as the Pasco standout senior is expected to miss — the next three games — after having surgery Friday to insert two screws into his right hand to repair a broken bone he suffered in practice stiff-arming DE Joey Ivie.
"It is what it is," said coach Tom McHugh, whose team extended its regular-season-game winning streak to 29 games. "It is a shame he will be out, but it's times for others to step up. He can't be replaced, but we have guys that can fill his place on the field."
Grant, who did not attend Pasco's 49-7 win against Land O' Lakes, is expected to be back in time when the Pirates (1-0) visit Class 5A-District 6 rival Wesley Chapel (1-1) on Oct. 5, though Friday, McHugh was expecting Grant to play. However, McHugh does have plenty of talent to turn to, including RB David Emmanuel (119 yards, 2 TDs), RB James McClinton (96 yards, 2 TDs) and QB Jajuan Henry (91 yards, 2 TDs).
ANCLOTE: Following a disheartening Week 1 loss at Mitchell, Anclote's Matt Wicks made his anger known during a post-game speech. The fourth-year coach decided to take a different approach during the bye week.
"We wanted to focus on the positives, but remind them that just because some of them have been doing this for four years, we're not entitled to any wins," Wicks said. "We want them concentrating on the little things like running good pass routes, looking the ball into their hands, swarming on defense and making sure we don't relax because another defender is trying to make the tackle."
Wicks said the tactic may have worked as Anclote had a solid week of practice in preparation for Friday's home opener against Spring Hill Springstead (2-0). Maybe more importantly, starting WR Ty Carter, who sat out the Mitchell game after suffering a mild concussion during the Kickoff Classic, practiced Monday and should be cleared to play later this week.
"He's a big part of our offense," Wicks said. "We know [Springstead] has an aggressive defense and we think we can take advantage of that."
GULF: For a coach accustomed to winning, the growing pains associated with rebuilding a program can seem long and painful. For Tom Carter, the knowledge that with each passing game his Gulf team grows incrementally doesn't make the process any easier.
"It's unique for me," said Carter, who spent more than two decades as an assistant at Land O' Lakes before taking the Buccaneers' job a season ago. "I'm used to being in a program that didn't rebuild, it reloaded. I know some of the kids are frustrated. Those are the kids that are working hard to turn this thing around."
Gulf has been outscored 94-0 in home losses to West Palm Beach King's Academy and Mitchell, but has a bye week before playing at county-power Pasco. The coach vowed to use this time wisely.
"We're going to keep on working hard to get better," Carter said. "That's the only way to improve. We showed them film [Monday] so they could see what happened, what didn't happen and why excuses are no good anymore."
LAND O' LAKES: The Gators (1-1) will take a much-needed off week to regroup before a critical district opener next week at Brooksville Hernando, last year's district champion, which has started the season 0-2 after a difficult schedule.
The focus for the Gators in the offseason was finishing games, but in fact it has been slow starts to games, which have plagued them so far. Land O' Lakes has been outscored 35-7 in the first quarter this season, and trailed Pasco 35-0 at half last Friday, ultimately losing 49-7.
The Gators also are struggling in the passing game, and will be tested once again by Hernando's aggressive defense, which is known for pressuring quarterbacks.
MITCHELL: The names may change, but the results seldom do. That may be the beauty of the Wing-T.
Despite losing three-quarters of its starting backfield to graduation, Mitchell's rushing attack looks eerily similar to a season ago when it paced the Mustangs to a 3-0 start. While new starting RB Christian Trinidad's 140 yards and QB Trey Drury's surprising pair of touchdown passes paced a Week 1 win against Anclote, it was FB Max Gebler and WB Dan Barber — the only returning starter — who led the way in a convincing win at Gulf.
"We don't make any bones about it," Mitchell head coach Scott Schmitz said. "We're a running football team and we've got some people that run the football well.
"Hopefully that gives the defense a little bit of a problem because you can try to take away Christian and we'll run outside. If you try to take away the outside, we can run Christian inside. If you load the box, we have faith in Trey to throw it."
The most telling sign that Mitchell's clearly not a one-man team — six different players accounted for the Mustangs' seven touchdowns a week ago.
RIDGEWOOD: The Rams, after two lopsided losses in the preseason and the regular-season opener — outscored 97-13 by Palm Harbor University and Springstead — came close to upsetting one of the 6A-6 favorites in River Ridge.
"I've never been more proud of a team in my coaching career," Ridgewood coach Jay Fulmer. "We had a good game plan and the kids executed well. We gave ourselves a chance win and that's all I could ask for."
Ridgewood found itself a new weapon in RB Elton Grigley, who rushed for more than 150 yards in the loss to the Royal Knights. The senior running back provides the Rams with a complement back to starter Tyler Vito.
Ridgewood will take on undefeated Mitchell, who last week soundly defeated Gulf 51-0. The Rams will look to jump start their passing game with QB Will Fulmer and TE Max Livingstone against a Mustangs' defense that has yet to be challenged.
RIVER RIDGE: The Royal Knights learned a valuable lesson during a closer-than-expected 17-14 victory against Ridgewood last Friday at the Jim Valentine Athletic Complex: No opponent should be overlooked.
It was evident from the early going that River Ridge's players were not focused, suffering from early turnovers, penalties and dropped passes. But the Royal Knights came alive in the final eight minutes to engineer a come-from-behind win, led by 149 rushing yards from QB Josh Maisel.
"He said the right things to get those guys motivated," said River Ridge coach Ryan Benjamin of Maisel. "What they did in those final eight minutes is what they should do in the entire game."
The River Ridge passing game remains a work in progress, but Benjamin made a concerted effort to run a more balanced attack, calling 20 pass plays. But when trailing late, the Knights actually favored the run game.
SUNLAKE: No one believed that Wiregrass Ranch, who lost 30-6 to neighborhood-rival Wesley Chapel the week before, could've given No. 2-ranked team a run for their money.
But the Bulls forced eight fumbles and nearly came back to defeat Sunlake in a 17-12 loss. Sunlake coach Bill Browning was pleased with the win but not with the fumbles.
"No excuses," Browning said of the fumbling problems. "(Wiregrass Ranch) was playing with the same ball. No excuses. They came to play. They didn't play too well last week against Wesley Chapel, but they played to their capabilities (Friday)."
Some bright spots for the Seahawks was their tough defense, which held the Bulls to less then 80 yards of offense and some good passes thrown by first-year starting QB Josh Zifer, who completed 12 of 19 attempts for 123 yards. Sunlake TB Eddie Burgos also is on a tear. After rolling up more than 200 yards rushing vs. Hudson the first week, added 116 yards on 17 carries and scored a touchdown against Wiregrass Ranch.
WESLEY CHAPEL: Wildcats coach Ben Alford says RB Daquan Caesar and DB Chris Ayers will be back in action Sept. 21 against Zephyrhills after missing last week's 45-0 loss to Orlando First Academy due to unspecified reasons. Alford said both Caesar and Ayers were not injured, adding, "They will be back (for Zhills)" in a text message.
Ayers is a starting cornerback for the Wildcats, while Caesar is the team's top rusher, including a 167-yard performance against Wiregrass Ranch in Week 1.
WIREGRASS RANCH: Coach Jeremy Shobe was fired up about the inspired performance of his team, which nearly pulled off a gigantic upset against Sunlake last week. But injuries and the schedule are not being kind to the Bulls looking ahead.
QB Shane Bucenell (concussion), FB Eli Galvan (broken finger), RB Jamie Barone (leg) and two offensive linemen are out indefinitely due to injury. Bucenell was injured twice against Sunlake, suffering a shoulder contusion early, which forced Shobe to turn to Jake Day in the second half. When Bucenell said he was ready to come back in, he went on to suffer the concussion trying to make a tackle.
To make matters worse, the next four games for Wiregrass Ranch are against some of the best teams from the area: Pasco (this week), Gaither, Countryside and Tampa Bay Tech.
"We have to focus on the things we can control," Shobe said. "I am proud of our defense, the way they kept us in the game. Coach (Adamm) Oliver is doing a heck of a job putting our guys in the right places, and the kids are buying in. We've got a lot of talent on this team and we're headed in the right direction."
ZEPHYRHILLS: As if being in a 0-2 hole to start the season wasn't bad enough, Zephyrhills is battling an injury bug during its bye week before hosting 5A-6 rival Wesley Chapel on Sept. 21. Coach Reggie Roberts watched both his tackles — juniors Drew Allen and Devon Long — leave the Bulldogs 20-9 loss to Tampa Catholic.