When the two teams face off tonight at W.F. Edwards Stadium, they’ll both be gunning to go 5-0. It’s something the Coyotes have never done and a feat the Pirates haven’t done since 2012.
Each team is a lot more confident about themselves as both have rushed off to a 4-0 start this season. It didn’t take first-year Pasco head coach Alphonso Freeney to really take notice that his Pirates and the Coyotes would be just fine in the regular season.
“I think the difference between now and the spring is we are both more confident teams heading into this week,” Freeney said. “I believe that Cypress has gotten better and we have too. I’m excited for the challenge ahead. I believe coach (Mike) Johnson has done a great job with those kids at Cypress.”
The Pirates were the 1992 Class 3A state champions but have looked nowhere near their past glory years in recent memory. That is until this season has brought back some of past success and a lot of that has hinged upon the play of running back Tayshaun Balmir.
Pasco’s go-to-guy in the backfield has been nothing less than stellar every time he touches the ball. Balmir has rushed for 840 yards on 69 attempts and scored 12 touchdowns. Freeney points to Balmir not just being a great player but an even better individual.
“Tay (Balmir) is a great player but even better person,” Freeney said. “He never talks down to his linemen. He makes sure to give them credit. I believe one of the coolest things to watch is the bond that continues to grow between him and his teammates. It’s a pretty special thing.”
Balmir and crew getting the Pirates back on the right track as a program has taken a lot of work in the background in getting the players back out and community behind the team. The last time Pasco made the playoffs was back in 2013 when the Pirates went 7-4.
Freeney, who was previously an assistant at Mitchell High School, has seen his fair share of success with the Mustangs. Knowing what it exactly takes to win district championships, he hasn’t shied away from acknowledging Pasco’s goal is a district title.
“It would mean that we are one step closer to our goal,” Freeney said. “We are 0-0 each week and we are trying to get to 1-0. I believe the district implications would move us toward our championship goal.”
“I can’t really speak for Cypress but I’ve felt after coming out of the spring if our guys put the work in during the off-season and continued to grow we would be in position to do great things.”
Freeney, a former Jacksonville State fullback, was hired in the off-season with the intent on bringing the Pirates back to their old playoffs ways. Plenty of cannon fire was expected this fall and the former Mitchell offensive line coach has delivered.
From getting the community back fully involved to getting players to buy into the new culture to winning games on the field, Pasco has a new fell to the black and red. The Pirates seem like they’re back behind Freeney, who has been the right man for the job in Dade City on Friday nights.
“I honestly can’t put it into words,” Freeney added. “It’s been a blessing and I’m just so lucky to have these kids, school, administration, and community in my life. It’s been everything that I thought it would be and I’m glad that the administration believed in me and my vision enough to give me a shot.”
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @Andy_Villamarzo.