Better late than never for the Bulldogs

Rain delays the start of Friday’s game by more than two hours

Better late than never.

Rain delayed the start of the Zephyrhills High School home opener Friday night by more than two hours, but by the time it was all said and done, the 32-15 win over the Villages was worth the wait.

Rain fell, but it was the presence of localized lightning that forced the game to kickoff at 9:51 p.m. and end at 12:15 a.m.

After falling last week 33-0 to Lake Wales, the Bulldogs were able to crack the winning column.

“We’re back on the winning train,” said Head Coach Nick Carroll. “Now we go back to work. We have practice Monday morning and prepare for Wiregrass. We have a great challenge and we look forward to the challenge.”

Despite the lengthy delay, the Bulldogs jumped out early when Tristan Lennon recovered the misplayed pooch kick at the Buffaloes’ 32 yard line.

The winning train had running back Rodney Smith driving it early as the junior dashed for a six-yard TD run to cap off the first drive and lead 6-0 at the 9:06 left in the first quarter. On the next possession, the Buffaloes methodically ran the ball on a 13-play 74-yard drive and took the lead 7-6 at 2:20 mark of first quarter.

Smith answered with another TD on the next Bulldog drive when he barreled into the end zone from the 19-yard line for 30.4 seconds left in the first quarter quarter. The two-point conversion failed and the Bulldog led 12-7.

“I challenged him and he did better than he did last Friday,” Carrolls said. “he ran really hard. We know down the stretch that if we need to keep the ball away from an opponent, he’s someone who runs hard to do his part. I’m happy for him.”

The run game was solid with Smith picking up two scores and senior Maddox Rivera adding another.

“I think the field conditions led to us running the ball so much,” Carroll said. “It slows the game down. You have to be smart enough to still throw the ball to keep teams honest. You need to run the ball to set the tone. You can demoralize a team if they can’t stop it.

The Buffaloes thought they had an answer for Pickett with the double team, but the talented sophomore shredded the coverage. Bulldog quarterback Brendyn Colella launched a pass and pickett went up between the two defenders to make the grab. He nearly fell after the jump, but was able to shake one defender and then stiff-armed and outran the other.  

Rounding out the scoring was Ben Raines with a 25-yard touchdown reception from Colella.

The defense was strong with Rivera finishing with a pair of interception and Pickett adding another.

Penalties were still a problem for Zephyrhills gathering 15 penalties for 145 yards. The sideline was hit twice for coaches being out of the coaching box. Holding penalties and delay of game penalties plagued the offense.

The Bulldogs are on the road Friday at Wiregrass Ranch. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

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