It was the Zephyrhills defense that put on a show scoring three touchdowns in the Bulldogs 26-19 win over Mitchell in the annual Spring Scrimmage.
The two perennial playoff teams combined for 17 wins last season and were looking toward this game to determine what aspects of the team need the most work.
For the Mustangs, this summer looks to be a time where ball security and passing accuracy will be priorities. For the Bulldogs, overcoming the stalled offense will be a focus this summer. Fortunately, the defense carried the slack.
Zephyrhills coach Nick Carroll gave the starting quarterback nod to freshman Tristan Lennon, who showed flashes of greatness, but also played nervous to start.
“At this point, the defense is always ahead of the offense,” said Zephyrhills coach Nick Carroll. “We made a ton of mistakes and when we do it right, we drop the ball. There are things that were there.
“We’re trying to find that good rhythm and that will take time. We’ll practice this summer and get it corrected. Offensively, this is not where we want to be at all.”
Mitchell lit up the scoreboard first after marching down the field on their second possession using short passes. The drive was capped off by a one-yard run by quarterback Chris Ferrini at the 5:57 mark of the first quarter.
Then the defense tightened up.
Fred Adams, in his first game as a Bulldog, started the defensive scoring parade with an exciting interception return of 72 yards to help the Bulldogs knot the game at 7-7 with 1:02 left in the first quarter.
“It felt amazing,” Adams said. “Based on the energy we had coming out here, we were ready. I feel we can go pretty far as a team. This isn’t a group that argues. We all are operating in a fast motion to be the best we can be.”
Linebacker Fred Maixner added another score after he stripped the ball from Ferrini, scooped it up and dashed 19 yards for the score to put the Bulldogs ahead 14-7.
Mitchell’s Jack Sutherlin capped off a drive with a 10-yard TD run to close the gap at 14-13 after a failed extra point.
The Bulldog defense came up big again when DJ Pickett intercepted Ferrini and took it 52 yards for a touchdown to put the Bulldogs up for good.
In the second half, Bulldog Rodney Smith plowed through the Mustang defense for a 10-yard TD run.
The Mustangs added a scored with under 20 seconds left to wrap up the game.