Gators stand at the top in Pasco, Pensyl has team first attitude

In 2012 the Land O’ Lakes Gators posted a 4-6 record. The worst “on the field” season record of the Gators since 2004, when they ended the year below .500 at 5-6. Even then, the Gators were the district runner up and advanced to the playoffs. That was then, this is now.

The 2013 team is a different bunch. One that believes in hard work, teamwork and consistency. Currently the Gators are 5-0 (1-0) and the lone undefeated Pasco County team. They have outscored their opponents 165 – 54.

The defense has been revived, improved and unpredictable to opposing offenses. They allowed just 13 points in the first 3 games, 21 points in game 4 and 20 points in game 5. As a unit, they have accounted for 52 tackles for loss, double-digit TFLs vs. River Ridge, Ridgewood and Mitchell. It doesn’t stop there. The Gators get even nastier. They are posting 5 sacks per game, 6 total interceptions, 10 caused and recovered fumbles. All those numbers mean two things: They are getting after the ball carrier and getting the ball back for the offense.

James Pensyl, Land O’Lakes

As the defense is doing the dirty work, the offense is getting the style points off the arm of junior QB, James Pensyl. Scoring 33 points per game, Pensyl is the driving force of a productive offensive unit. He has thrown for 1,277 yards, 255 yards per game, 10 passing TDs and just 1 interception. As Pensyl has developed and grown as a player, so has his team. He mentions the difference between the 4-6 2012 team and his undefeated 2013 team, “2012, the team was divided and this year we are a family.” A family that has 8 different receivers with a least 1 reception; 4 of which have double digit catches. A family that has 8 different ball carriers with rushing yards and 5 of them has at least 1 rushing TD.

The Gator offense has scored 30 or more points in all but 1 game (Anclote 24-7) this season. They are averaging half a first down each rush and 15 yards each catch. They are clicking on all cylinders and the QB says the reason is simple. “We play with heart and execute our plays.”

He will never take credit, nor is that his style. However, Pensyl’s contribution to the team is a major piece to the puzzle of early success for the Gators. His focus and production has carried the high-powered offense to a great start. It starts with correcting mistakes from the previous game, having a strong week of practice and locking in on game day. In pregame, James is focused on preparing to play at the best of his ability, “During warm-ups, I go through the basics and make sure I’m game ready, so I perform the best I can and don’t let down my teammates.”

When the signal caller is more worried about not coming through for his team, than the end result of the game, that team has a chance for success. Land O’ Lakes will host a confident 3-1 Hudson team this Friday night in a non district contest then hit the strength of their schedule with Sunlake, Fivay and Springstead to conclude the season. The district is winnable for Land O’Lakes and the future is bright. Can the Gators focus on the NOW and not look past the mission at hand?