In the Pickett house, the Nine-Mile War between Zephyrhills and Pasco is a part of family history.
Damien Sr. played in battles against Pasco in the mid 90s. His son Jaylen played in wars from 2011-2014. Damien Jr., or “DJ” as he’s known, got his first taste of it and he liked it.
The sophomore wide receiver/safety took control of the game in the first quarter scoring two touchdowns on pass plays of 52 and 59 yards from quarterback Brendyn Colella to put the Bulldogs (4-3) ahead 13-0 over the Pirates (6-1).
The Bulldogs went on to knock off the previously unbeaten Pirates 28-16 and put themselves comfortably in the drivers’ seat to claim the another district title and secure a playoff berth.
“My brother never got a win against Pasco in high school and wanted to get this for him,” DJ said. “For me it was just another game. I wanted to have more touchdowns, but I‘ll take what I got.”
This the third consecutive win for the Bulldogs in the 9-Mile War and they have taken seven of the last eight meetings between the two rivals. Before that, Pasco won eight straight.
“The rivalry is alive and well,” said Zephyrhills head Coach Nick Caroll. “Hats off to Pasco. They are doing a great job over here. They’re turning it and every year we play them, it will be a big game for both teams and both communities.”
Pickett’s TD catches and an interception return for a touchdown by Ben Raines put the Bulldogs in control at 20-3 at halftime.
The Zephyrhills’ defense has answered the call in the first half shutting down the undefeated Pirates and their county-leading running back Tayshaun Balmir. The Bulldogs held Balmir to 43 yards on 14 carries in the first half. He finished the night with 177 yards and two scores.
“We did pursuit drill every day this week,” said Caroll on his plan to stop Balmir. “He is a good running back. He bounces and makes holes and cuts it out. He runs his butt off.”
Balmir finally hit the end zone to close the gap, but the Bulldogs led 20-10 with 1:07 left in the third quarter.
Fred Adams put up an insurance touchdown on a 21-yard pass from Colella to give Zephyrhills a 26-10 lead at 5:50 left in the game.
Balmir answered back when plowed into the end zone on a 10-yard run to pull within 26-16 with 4:48 to play. The Bulldogs dropped Pasco quarterback Enrique Matos in the end zone for a for the final score 28-16.
Colella finished the game 12-of-20 for 217 yards and three scores and Pickett finished with four catches for 129 yards and two scores.