Zephyrhills Free Press

Bulldogs crush Hernando 43-2

Jaylin Thomas racks up 257 all purpose yards and three touchdowns.

Zephyrhills running back Jaylin Thomas missed last week’s season opener against Lakeland Kathleen . The senior speedster made his presence known with 257 all purpose yards and three touchdowns in the Bulldogs 43-2 win over Hernando.

After the Bulldog defense shut down Hernando, Thomas was back for the punt return to get his first action of the season. He took the kick on the Bulldogs 31 and never looked back on a 69-yard dash to the end zone to put the Bulldogs up 7-0 in the first quarter.

“He didn’t get to play last week and he was hungry,” said ZHS coach Nick Carroll. “He wanted to tote the mail.”

He was incredibly anxious as he stood back alone waiting for the punt.

“I had a bunch of energy and I really wanted to play,” Thomas said. “I didn’t get to play last week against Kathleen. When that ball was coming all I was thinking about was crib. We watched film and they come down the middle, so we knew the outside was there. I knew it was a touchdown.”

The first time the Leopards tried to go through the air, ZHS cornerback Marcell Tucker made them pay by picking it off and dashing 30 yards to the end zone at the 4:51 mark of the first quarter.

On the next Hernando possession, a bad snap by the Leopards sent the ball into the end zone. ZHS defensive end Maguire Neal made the tackle for a safety and the Bulldogs led 16-0.

“This defense is what is going to carry us,” said senior linebacker Theotis Smith. “There isn’t anybody who can touch us. We are 2-0 now and then we are looking at 10-0. Then we are looking at states. I want 15-0 and I want a ring before I leave Zephyrhills High School.”

In a bizarre twist, the Bulldogs suffered the same fate as a bad snap sailed over the head of quarterback Jaxson Rivera and out of the back of the end zone to give the Leopards their only points of the game.

Tymar Mckever had a big game when he blocked a punt at the 25-year-line and scooped it up at the 10 and sprinted to end zone to put the Bulldogs up 22-2.

The offense finally got points on the board at the 9:11 mark of the second quarter when Thomas flew 56 yards through the Leopards’ defense. Rivera’s kick was good and the Bulldogs were up 29-2.

“I’m proud of them. They did a great job,” said Carroll. “We have to move the ball more consistently down the field. The way we played on special team was great.”

With 5:52 left in the first half, Rivera hit TJ Jackson with a 57-yard TD pass and the Bulldogs extended their lead to 36-2.

Thomas added his third TD of the night on a 37-yard run to push the lead to 43-2 forcing a running clock through the fourth quarter.

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