Football: The 2023 Pasco County quarterback guide — June 27

Last season was a notable one for area quarterbacks with many setting school records for passing yards and touchdowns, all while leading their teams in deep playoff runs. This season could be memorable, too, with plenty of signal callers returning to contending teams. Here is the breakdown in Pasco County to get ready for the season.

Plentiful Pasco passers

For years, Pasco County offenses were firmly entrenched on the ground.

Not anymore.

Instead of relying on sturdy ballcarriers to move the ball, the county is now putting the ball in the air.

The reason has a lot to do with the extensive amount of experienced signal callers, many of whom are returning.

Four county seniors – Hudson’s Riley Blevens, Zephyrhills’ Brendyn Colella, Gulf’s Ethan Holewski and Cypress Creek’s Jack Niemann – threw for 20 or more touchdowns last season. And five quarterbacks from Pasco, including Wiregrass Ranch’s Luke Knight, who transferred from Merritt Island, ranked among the top 15 in passing yards in the Tampa Bay area a year ago.

They also have put up some staggering numbers. Holewski set the county record for touchdown passes in a regular season game last year with seven. A few weeks later, he was outdone by Colella, who set the county record for touchdown passes in a playoff game with eight – against Holewski. Blevens also threw for five touchdown passes once and four three more times.

But it is not just numbers they are producing.

They also are winning.

Blevens, Colella and Holewski each led their teams to playoff appearances last year. Niemann came awfully close, finishing 7-3 in 2022. And Knight, who recently committed to Army, guided Merritt Island to the postseason last season and helped Jesuit win a state title two years ago.

2022 Tampa Bay area passing leaders

Here are the top 15 leaders in passing yards from the Tampa Bay area who are returning this year. Five are from Pasco County (Luke Knight played at Merritt Island but is now at Wiregrass Ranch). The Pasco leaders are in bold.

Passing yardsPlayerHigh school
3,269Jayce NixonGaither
2,606 Jacob DrackettCalvary Christian
2,356Riley BlevensHudson
2,226Brandon RoyalSickles
2,219Jershaun NewtonClearwater Central Catholic
2,185Ty RobinsonSteinbrenner
2,173Evans ChubaClearwater Academy
2,145Ethan HolewskiGulf
1,950Jackson JensenWharton
1,896Terry Hedden IIITampa Catholic
1,852Luke KnightMerritt Island*
1,834Jack NiemannCypress Creek
1,700Brendyn ColellaZephyrhills
1,692Eric Archield Jr.Robinson
* Luke Knight is now at Wiregrass Ranch

Quarterback battles

There are three intriguing quarterback competitions among county teams to watch out for heading into the fall.

Fivay

David Acosta, a senior, and Ayden Wallace, a sophomore, are both vying for the each. They played last year with Acosta throwing for 1,173 yards and five touchdowns last season and Wallace throwing for 557 and three scores.

Land O’ Lakes

The quarterback room became crowded with Kyle Horvath returning for his senior season after spending last year at Sunlake, and the arrival of freshman Chance Houston. Both will be trying to beat out last year’s starter, Mason Clarke, a junior who accounted for 1,492 yards (941 passing, 551 rushing) in guiding the Gators to the Class 3S region quarterfinals last season.

Zephyrhills Christian

Parker Stinkorb, who came over from Dunedin last year, will try to hold off Wiregrass Ranch transfer Elijah Brown, a senior, and Myles McDonald, a freshman. The coaches rave about McDonald, who they compare to former Warrior Jayce Nixon, now at Gaither.

Mitchell’s multidimensional force

This offseason, Mitchell had the unenviable task of replacing quarterback Chris Ferrini, who gained more than 1,000 yards passing and rushing in leading the program to the Class 4S region semifinals last season.

The Mustangs filled that void with a playmaker who is perhaps the most talented at the position in Andy Schmitz’s decade as head coach.

Cayden Thomas, who has the same dual-threat qualities as Ferrini, showed off his skills in a dazzling display in the spring game. The sophomore scored six touchdowns (four rushing, two passing) in a win over Hudson.

Thomas’ ability to move the ball in a variety of ways will help Mitchell in its quest to reach the postseason for the 10th straight year.

River Ridge’s Bache takes over

Lucas Bache spent the past season as the understudy to Logan Howard.

Now, the apprenticeship is over.

Bache, the heir apparent at quarterback, takes over the starting role from Logan Howard, who graduated.

It will be a tough task. Howard racked up 23 touchdowns (14 passing, nine rushing) to lead the Royal Knights to a district title a year ago.

Still, Bache will benefit from having a solid supporting cast around him on both sides of the ball to help River Ridge stay in playoff contention under first-year coach Fred Reid.