DADE CITY — Sunlake stayed united, and that’s exactly how the Seahawks won.
Sunlake relied on the running game and defense, with timely turnovers, to again take one of the season’s most-anticipated non-district games and defeat Pasco 17-13 at W.F. Edwards Stadium.
“United we fall or succeed,” said senior Seahawks running back Nathan Johnson, who had both of his team’s touchdowns Friday. “We came out mentally and physically tough on offense and defense and knew that game plan would work.”
The Pirates (0-1) shot themselves in the foot several times, racking up 14 penalties for 105 yards, including a holding call that negated a 47-yard Eric Wilson touchdown run. Pasco also lost three fumbles, though those only resulted in seven Sunlake points.
“Same as last year: penalties and turnovers,” Pirates coach Tom McHugh said, referring to his team’s 17-6 loss to Sunlake in 2013’s Week 1 that had Pasco with five turnovers. “There’s a lot of things in this game, where they are ifs, ifs, ifs, but it is what it is. I think we need more continuity (on offense), but we’re still figuring out who we are.”
After a scoreless first quarter, the Seahawks (1-0) and Pirates exchanged touchdown runs: a 5-yarder by Johnson and a 46-yard scamper by Jakiah Felder. Sunlake took a 17-7 lead into the fourth behind Johnson’s 7-yard touchdown and a 39-yard field goal by Chris Wilkinson.
The Pirates defense contained Johnson to just 57 yards rushing.
Pasco had a hard time moving the offense against a Sunlake defense that had nine new starters. Dylan Franklin would have two sacks and a fumble recovery.
Pasco scored with 56 seconds left when Grant Starling hooked up with Brandon Ray, but the ensuing onside kick failed.
“I think what happened to us last week (losing to Steinbrenner) was the best thing that could have happened to us,” Sunlake coach Bill Browning said. “Pasco, we all know, is a very good team with a very good defense. You absolutely want to see players learn from that and they did.”
Sunlake 0 7 7 3 — 17
Pasco 0 7 0 6 — 13
S—Johnson 5 run (Wilkinson kick)
P—Felder 46 run (J. Starling kick)
S—Johnson 7 run (Wilkinson kick)
S—FG Wilkinson 39
P—Ray 6 pass from G. Starling (kick failed)