Defense registers a shutout in 21-0 win over Lecanto
Zephyrhills senior running back/linebacker Maddox Rivera played Friday night’s Class 3S Region 2 semifinal like he didn’t’ want his season to end. To his credit and to the rest of the Bulldogs, they fought to keep playing after handling Lecanto 21-0.
It was a historical victory giving the Bulldogs (9-3) their first trip to the regional finals in school history. They will travel to face Lake Wales, next Friday. The two teams met in the season opener when the Highlanders, now 12-0, defeated the Bulldogs 33-0.
Rivera scored the game’s first touchdown on a 22- yard run and his defensive play made helped hold the Panther’s star running back Darius Gainer to just 80 yards on the ground.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Rivera said. We knew we had to come out and get the win to make history for our school. No one ever made the regional finals. We did what we had to do. I’ve been with these seniors since we were freshmen and we weren’t going to go out easy. We went out and played our best.
On offense, Rivera and running back Rodney Smith, exploited the Panthers’ in ability to stop the run.
“It was working and we used it to our advantage,” Rivera said. “The guys from Lecanto were talking a lot of crap on social media so we had to show them what Zephyrhills is about.”
The historical win is a victory head coach Nick Carroll has been wanting for his team since he took over as coach seven seasons ago.
“I’m really happy for our kids, our coaches, our school and our community,” Carroll said. “These kids are leaving their mark and a legacy. We get a chance to play the day after Thanksgiving. It is awesome. It’s a great feeling.
“Anytime, you’re still playing after Thanksgiving, you’re an elite team in the state playoffs.”
Carroll played in the regional playoffs as a Bulldog, but to be part of this piece of football history is memorable.
“I’m from Zephyrhills, so witnessing this and being a part of this is special,” Carroll said.
Lecanto tried their best to keep the ball away from Zephyrhills explosive offense, it was the defense that kept Gainer and the rest of the Panthers out of the end zone and off the scoreboard. The Bulldogs had a pair of drive stopping plays inside the 10 yard line. One forced the Panthers to attempt a field goal that ended in a bad snap and the other stopped Gainer at the two-yard-line on fourth down.
“They took a lot of time away from us to touch the ball, but the defense did a great job,” Carroll said.
When the Bulldogs did get the ball, they made most of their drive count. A five-yard touchdown pass from Brendyn Colella to Jakobe Campbell helped the Bulldogs extend their lead to 14-0 at halftime. They extended the lead in the fourth quarter when Colella threw a 36-yard pass to a sprinting Fred Adams to give Zephyrhills and insurance touchdown and the final 21-0 margin.