Climbing the Improvement Ladder: Crystal River Pirates Creeping Up Rankings

“I graduated from Crystal River in 1996, it’s my Alma mater so I care about this position, athletic program and the school overall tremendously…” ~ Head Coach Cliff Lohrey, Crystal River Pirates.

Crystal River, November 7, 2018- Came out of nowhere? The Pirates have been nothing short of impressive this year at 8-2 and 5-1 in their respected 5A district, following a neutral last season overall of 5-5. There’s a deeper meaning to this program’s recent successes and it starts near the top of the mentoring totem pole- let’s take a closer look at this rose that grew from concrete.

“Being my first year here, I know that every high school across the country is in a new season in its own right. I inherited a great group of seniors and coaching staff; these guys have really made the transition pretty seamless for me,” Head Coach Cliff Lohrey states whole heartedly. 

HOT minute: The last time Crystal River won 8 games? Over 10 years ago, in 2007- no question this team has flipped the ship right side up, posting their best record in a decade! The last time they won 10 games was six years longer ago, in 2001, but recently made the playoffs in 2016 as district runner-up. Nevertheless, this group has moved on to bigger and better things- not being held down by the ‘daunting’ past, the Blue and Gold 4-1 both at home and away this 2018 season.

Crystal River RB Deandre Parker busting through the Hernando defense. Photo: Cheryl Clanton 

“Collectively a group who has embraced everything I’ve asked from them since day 1- a tough task to ask from a unit who have played for multiple coaches. Individually we have some special guys; senior ATH Deandre Parker is a great young man with outstanding character and plays running back for us. He’s a guy who fits the suddenness word perfectly, not too outspoken but capable of making u miss in a phone booth- he really sets the tone for us with the other players.”

“Outside linebacker and senior, Tyler Sandak is the QB of our defense; we pride ourselves on running to the football and being physical- he’s one of the reason our guys buy into that philosophy. Senior guard Mikey White is a tremendous leader on our offensive line, he’s the closest thing to having a coach on the field for us- does great job of identifying defensive schemes and relaying that to us. Kyle Robinson is a versatile and complete football player for us, playing a huge role in all three aspects. He plays LB for us as well; a significant part of our offensive plan as far as rushing, and on special teams probably our most valuable guy off the top of my head,” Head Coach Lohrey explains with passion.

The swarming Crystal River defense. Photo: Cheryl Clanton

Coach Lohrey concludes, “I’ve been coaching since 2000 and been a coordinator in all three aspects of the game- I like to think, for myself as a coach, I bring my ability to strengthen a staff and team in all capabilities to the table. Our defensive coordinator Randy Wardlow, has been here for a number of years, so I’ve been able to step in on offense so it’s the best of both worlds with his defensive continuity and my offensive efforts. Trying to go 1-0 this week against an outstanding Zephyrhills football team.

Last Friday, Head Coach Lohrey and his gang of Pirates fought and defeated Weeki Wachee High, 32-22. In this week’s glimmering FHSAA playoff lights, the Blue and Gold will face off against the Bulldogs of Zephyrhills in a neutral playoff matchup this Friday at 7:30p.

Vaughan Sixbury, BCP Contributor