Zephyrhills Free Press

Homecoming victory give Carroll 50th win

Bulldogs hammer Hudson 49-20

In front of a packed homecoming crowd, Zephyrhills cruised to a 49-20 win over Hudson giving head coach Nick Carroll his 50th win in his sixth season at the helm of the Bulldogs’ football program.

“I’m really proud of that,” Carroll said, crediting his assistant coaches over the last six seasons. “It’s because of all of those coaches along the way.”

The homecoming win over the Cobras not only gives Carroll a coaching milestone, but it gives the Bulldogs an undefeated slate in Class 5A-District 9 and a home game in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs. Zephyrhills is 8-1 overall and 5-0 in the district.

“That’s why it is important we win the last two games, because we have a chance to be the number one seed and never leave here for two or three weeks,” Carroll said.

The Bulldogs led just 7-6 after the first quarter when Nick Sheldon had an interception return to the Hudson one-yard-line and fumbled, but Theotis Smith quickly scooped it up scored. Zephyrhills went on a tear with 35 points in the second quarter. Quarterback Jaxson Rivera scored on a one-yard plunge. A short time later, Maguire Neal scored on an 85-yard end around for a score, followed by Jaylin Thomas’ 62-yard scoring run and the rout was on 28-6 halfway through the second quarter.

Hudson closed the gap at 28-12 on Logan Shawell’s 13-yard TD run before the Bulldogs would extend their lead when Rivera made a tremendous throw under pressure to Larence Graham for a touchdown. Rivera added another TD pass on a 52-yard strike to Nick Sheldon. The Bulldogs went into the locker room at halftime 42-12.

Rivera, who is listed at 5’-8” and 170 pounds, has played as a big man throwing for over 1,000 yards this season and has tossed 15 touchdowns.

“We worked really hard for that. Getting that undefeated district record, that was countless hours of watching film, practices and everything put together. It means a lot to us,” said Rivera, who is far from the prototypical quarterback. “I’ve had to prove them wrong. I’ve always been the shortest one out there. Ever since I was six years old, I was the smallest quarterback out there. I had to prove my point and it feels good.”

Thomas set up the Bulldogs’ final score with a 31-yard run and Willie Queen took the next handoff three-yards for the TD.

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