Zephyrhills finishes 9-1 and headed to the playoffs
It just didn’t seem like Friday’s Night’s clash between Zephyrhills and Pasco had the atmosphere of the Nine Mile War, but the Bulldogs had the intensity for the battle taking down the Pirates 56-0 at Tom Fisher Field.
Friday’s nearly three inches of rain appeared to keep some of the fans away from Bulldog Stadium. It didn’t keep the Bulldogs from keeping their foot on the gas en route to one of the most lopsided wins over the Pirates in school history.
“It was good. I’m happy for the kids and the coaches and now we get a chance to get ready for some playoff football,” said ZHS head Coach Nick Carroll, “Going 9-1, I’m happy for those guys. They deserve it. It’s always good to beat Pasco, because you never know.”
The victory comes in the regular season finale for both teams. The Pirates finished the season 0-10, while the Bulldogs rolled to a 9-1 slate. Celebration for Zephyrhills will be short-lived as the Bulldogs will get back to work quickly to prepare for the Class 5A-Region 3 playoffs.
“Eventually they are going to be back,” Carroll said. “They are going to be good. There’s too much rich tradition and history at Pasco. It’s always nice to get a win against our rival.”
Senior linebacker Theotis Smith looked and the bright glow of the scoreboard and saw more than the 56-0 score.
“I see all the work we had all season paying off,” Smith said. “Now we’re moving on to the playoffs. I’m glad. We have to be locked in because it’s win or go home. Tomorrow isn’t promised in the playoffs.”
Zephyrhills will host the first-round game with an opponent to be determined Sunday when the FHSAA releases the playoff brackets.
Pasco received to start the game, but the Zephyrhills defense forced the Pirates to Punt. Sadly, the punt went a few yards giving Zephyrhills the ball on the Pirate 17 yard line. It took just one play for the Bulldogs to open the scoring with a 17-yard TD pass from Jaxson Rivera to Maguire Neal.
Zephyrhills second possession saw Jaylin Thomas rip off a 45-yard run to the Pasco one-yard-line. Thomas plunged in from the one to put the Bulldogs up 14-0. Zephyrhills went up 21-0 in the first quarter when Rivera hit Jakobe Campbell with an 18-yard TD strike.
Following a Smith fumble recovery, Thomas hit pay dirt again on a 32-yard TD run, but it was the PAT that was the play of the night.
Senior lineman Annaleese Thomas lined up in the backfield for the two-point conversion. Rivera took the snap handing off to Thomas who, with some assistance from her teammates, muscled into the end zone for the two-pointer to give the Bulldogs a 29-0 lead in the second quarter. It was her first carry of her football career.
“That is a play we put in for her,” Carroll said. “She is a great kid and a great addition to our team. We all accept her as another player and we’re happy for her. She definitely deserves it.”
Thomas’ fete earned her the distinction of being the only female varsity football player in Zephyrhills football history to score points.
“All the adrenaline was pumping through my body and I went out there and did it,” Thomas said. “I was told all week to hold onto the ball and follow my blockers. There’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears and they push me everyday to be better.”
Smith had yet another fumble recovery setting up Willie Queen’s 18-yard touchdown run. The senior tailback appeared to be bottled up by the Pirate defense before blasting through the pile of defenders to the end zone giving Zephyrhills a 36-0 lead.
Campbell added a defensive touchdown before halftime with a 37-yard fumble recovery return for a touchdown giving the Bulldogs a 43-0 lead at the half.
Queen got his second touchdown of the game when he took the second-half kickoff 60 yards to the end zone to extend the lead to 49-0 after the PAT was no good.
Backup quarterback RJ Allen lofted a pass into the end zone to Xavier Garraway for the Bulldogs final score of the night for the 56-0 winning margin.