Bulldogs down Kathleen to win opener

Zephyrhills’ defense stands tall to shut down the Red Devils, 16-12

The Zephyrhills defense answered the call when it had to preserving a 16-12 season opening win over Lakeland Kathleen Friday night.

With the Bulldogs leading 16-12 with 3:50 remaining, the Red Devils took over on their 10-yard-line. Marching down the field, Kathleen was at the Zephyrhills’ 20 with time ticking away. On the final play, as time expired, Maguire Neal forced a fumble and Theotis Smith recovered and the celebration began.

“All off season, we worked for this game,” said Smith after the game. “Me and Maguire tried to keep us together. We adjusted and got the win. There are people in our own city that though we couldn’t do and we came here and shocked the world.”

Neal, who also had a 37-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Jaxson Rivera, was proud how the small team from Pasco County could go on the road and defeat one of Polk County’s top teams.

“We just played one of Polk County’s best teams and got the “W” in their house,” Neal said. “We are starting a run. This was such a crazy game.”

Rivera started the scoring in the first half giving Zephyrhills a 3-0 lead on a 24-yard field goal.

Kathleen senior running back Jordan Gant gave the Red Devils a 6-3 lead on a four-yard plunge.

Rivera hit Neal with the passing touchdown and booted the extra point giving the Bulldogs a 10-6 lead at halftime.

Zephyrhills extended the lead when birthday boy Nick Sheldon scooped up a snap that sailed over the quarterback’s head and dashed 34 yards to put Zephyrhills up 16-6.

Kathleen wasn’t finished adding a fourth quarter TD to narrow the gap to 16-12. The momentum began to shift, but the Bulldog defense stood tall.

“They are a good football team,” said Zephyrhills coach Nick Carroll. “They are big, physical and fast. What great to open up with a win against a team like that.”

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