DADE CITY — There’s finally the right combination.
Pasco’s defensive line, which has always been a formidable force for the Pirates, now has a mix of speed and strength and starts with two Division I players: Andrew Ivie and Bowman Archibald. Mix in Cameron Crews and Sherwin Emmanuel, and Pasco looks to be strong against opposing offenses.
“They have potential to be one of the best, but I’m not going to go that far — yet,” coach Tom McHugh said. “I’ll go with my gut and say we’ll be tough up front on defense, but we’ll see. I agree, it’s a strong line, because I have to chase (Archibald and Ivie) out of the weight room.”
Ivie and Archibald, Florida and Miami commits, respectively, lead a partially revamped defense that wants to be better than the 173 points it allowed in 2013 and get back to 2012 form when it had seven shutouts. Ivie and Archibald, the latter who also plays tight end, combined for just 4.5 sacks in 2013.
“We’ve all got to play as one,” said Ivie, who follows in the footsteps of his older brother, Joey, also a defensive lineman at Florida. “We’ve played with each other for a long time — since middle school — so everybody’s got to be to the ball and have high intensity.”
Ivie overcame an injury from his sophomore year, but as McHugh said, the 6-foot-2, 274-pound lineman, along with the 6-foot-6 Archibald, worked hard this offseason.
“Its the first time I’ve really had both power and speed and it’s kind of the perfect storm,” defensive line coach Pat Fortunato said. “Even with the guys in the past, the new guys want to live up or be better than those before them.”
The linemen have big numbers to live up to, including Joey Ivie, who had 20 sacks in two seasons, plus Morgan Flournory, who had a Pasco County-record 22.5 sacks in 2012.
Coach Tom McHugh will have to replace the 1,832 all-purpose yards and 22 touchdowns from the departed Malik Johns, but he has numerous options, including a running back-by-committee approach led by Brandon Lee. Senior Grant Starling gets the nod at starting quarterback and has solid targets in Isaac Johnson and Miami commit Bowman Archibald. Keep an eye on Brandon Ray, who also will play a big part in the offense.
The unit is slightly revamped, in an effort to produce better results and top the 23 sacks and seven interceptions the Pirates recorded last season. Led by Andrew Ivie and Archibald, the defense will get help from Brandon Debyah (109 tackles), Cameron Crews (64 tackles) and upcoming freshman linebacker Cameron Smith.
The Pirates started the first half of 2013 at 2-3, hurt by numerous turnovers. But strong play and adjustments helped get Pasco to the playoffs yet again. Class 5A-District 6 is still tough, especially with Bushnell South Sumter, so new players will have to step up each week for Pasco to stay ahead of the pack.
♦ About The Pirates
Stadium: W.F. Edwards Stadium, 36850 State Road 52, Dade City
Class-District: 5A-6 (with Brooksville Central, Brooksville Hernando, Brooksville Nature Coast, Bushnell South Sumter, Weeki Wachee and Zephyrhills)
Coach: Tom McHugh (70-16, eighth season)
Last season: 7-4
Aug. 29: Sunlake
Sept. 5: at Fivay
Sept. 12: at Wesley Chapel
Sept. 26: at Brooksville Nature Coast
Oct. 3: at Bushnell South Sumter
Oct. 10: Weeki Wachee
Oct. 17: Brooksville Hernando
Oct. 24: at Brooksville Central
Oct. 31: Zephyrhills
Nov. 7: River Ridge