DADE CITY - Nature Coast did it again.
For the third time in as many meetings, the Sharks used a late, fourth-quarter rally to stun, well, just about everyone - but especially the host Pasco Pirates Friday night.
"We had heart - our banner at the practice field says 'Go hard or go home' and we just refused to lose," Sharks head coach Charles Liggett said. "I chalk this up to our kids because they really wanted this one."
Nature Coast (2-2 overall, 2-0 Class 5A, District 6) did the same thing it did in 2007 and 2008 to Pasco (2-2 overall, 0-1 5A-6) and edged its new district foe in a 29-28 thriller.
"We've been saying it all the time that if we get this district win that we'll be off to the races in the district," running back DeShawn Smith said. "We had a lot of heart tonight and we were never going to give up against Pasco."
Previously, the Sharks had beaten the Pirates in 2007 when Nature Coast came from behind with four seconds left. And in 2008, just like Friday, the Sharks used a two-point conversion for the 18-17 win.
With Nature Coast down 28-21 after taking a late safety and then forcing a Pasco punt, the Sharks drove the ball from their 33 and got into the end zone with a 50-yard Smith run.
Nature Coast took the one-point lead on a Ryan Quigley pass to Christian Maner on the conversion.
Pasco had five turnovers, including an interception by Grant Starling. Nature Coast would score 15 points off turnovers, including a 23-yard fumble return by Smith, who also had a game-high 116 rushing yards. Smith would also score on a 39-yard run prior to the fumble return.
"Can't put it on the ground four times and throw it away another," Pirates head coach Tom McHugh said. "You have to get back at this, though. Can't quit. I'm not going to quit. These guys won't quit."
The Pirates jumped out to a 19-0 lead behind a 17-yard touchdown pass from Starling to Bowman Archibald, a 46-yard catch by Nate Craig and a 8-yard run by Jaquan Clower, who had 113 yards rushing, but three lost fumbles.
"We had some lucky breaks, too," Liggett said. "Those are always helpful in a game like this."
Pasco made it 26-15 after halftime on a 3-yard Malik Johns run, but Maner would score from 9 yards and finish with 103 yards.
All in all, it's making for a tighter 5A-6 race than anyone saw coming.
"I'm not going to say anything negative about what Pasco did and Pasco has got great kids," Liggett said. "They always have some of the best talent, perhaps more than us, but we had the most heart and this going to be one fun district race."
Nature Coast 29, Pasco 28
Qtr. Scoring 1 2 3 4
NCT 0 15 6 8 - 29
PAS 6 13 7 2 - 28
PAS - Archibald 17 pass from Starling (kick blocked)
PAS - Clower 8 run (pass failed)
PAS - Craig 46 pass from Starling (Coats kick)
NCT - Smith 39 run (Lacy kick)
NCT - Smith 23 fumble return (Smith run)
PAS - Johns 3 run (Coats kick)
NCT - Maner 9 run (run failed)
PAS - Safety
NCT - Smith 50 run (Maner pass from Quigley)