District Champs

Zephyrhills’ Rodney Smith and Tristan Lennon rushed for three touchdowns each and racked up 280 yards on the ground to lead Zephyrhills to a 63-35 win over previously undefeated Cypress Creek to claim the Class 3S District 7 title.

By looking at the final score, it would be hard to believe that the Bulldogs had to rally from a 28-21 deficit at halftime for a come from behind win. Midway through the third quarter the score was knotted at 28-28.

The Coyotes had the momentum in the first half overcoming a 21-7 deficit to take a 28-21 lead into the locker room at the half.

Zephyrhills Coach Nick Carroll issued a challenge to his players at halftime.

“I challenged them at halftime to go out there and get a three and out and go down and score to flip the momentum and they answered the call,” Carroll said. “I’m really proud of our coaches and team for finding a way and not giving up.”

In the third and fourth quarter, Zephyrhills scored 28 unanswered points on two TD runs by Smith and two from Lennon. Smith scored on runs of seven and eight yards. Lennon scored on a three-yard run and a 90-yard dash through the Coyote defense. Unfortunately, that was Lennon’s last play of the game. He was ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct.

With the lead at 49-28, Cypress Creek tried to turn the momentum back with a drive and a touchdown in the fourth quarter to close the gap top 49-35.

Smith put the dagger in the Coyotes’ title hopes with a 26-yard touchdown run to make it 56-35. With just 32 seconds on the clock, where the Bulldogs could have ended the game with a kneel, quarterback Brendyn Colella tossed a 19-yard touchdown pass to senior Jaylen Smith for Smith’s first TD of the season.

Colella finished the game going 15-for-20 for 193 yards and two touchdowns including a 53-TD strike in the second quarter. In addition, Roe Miller added a TD on a five-yard run to start the scoring.

“I wanted to give another kid an opportunity to make a catch and score,” Carroll said.

Cypress Creek walls to 8-1 on the season while outscoring opponents 405-157. Zephyrhills is 7-2 outscoring opponents 291-175.

With the win, Zephyrhills clinched a playoff spot and a home playoff game. The Coyotes are likely to make the playoffs, but will be on the road. There is a chance, Zephyrhills and Cypress Creek could face each other again in the playoffs.

Zephyrhills concludes its regular season next Friday on the road against Dunellon.

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