LJ Graham returned an interception 38 yards with 1:31 left in the game to give the Orange a 21-14 win over the Black squad in the annual ZHS Orange and Black game.
With the game tied at 14-14, Graham picked off the pass from Tristan Lennon ending the Black squad’s chance at a game winning drive.
Zephyrhills coach Nick Carroll, who normally calls the offensive plays, sat back and observed as his coaching staff took control of the offense and defense of both squads. With the rosters set earlier this week, the inter-team rivalry started and was intense throughout the game.
“It was really competitive and that was awesome,” Carroll said. “That is the way it should be.”
The obvious on-field competition was between childhood friends and finally high school teammates DJ Pickett and Jakobe Campbell. The two Division 1 prospects battled it out on both sides of the ball. When Pickett was the receiver, Campbell was the corner and vice versa.
It appeared Pickett, a sophomore to be, won the battle with a touchdown over Campbell. However, when Pickett was covering another receiver, Campbell made an over-the-shoulder catch against corner Marcell Tucker for a 75-yard TD.
Pickett and Campbell have been battling it out since they were in youth football together and with Pickett returning to Zephyrhills, they are be teammates again.
“I’m back home. It feels amazing,” said Pickett, who earlier Friday competed in the FHSAA Class 3A long jump in Gainesville. “I wanted to get back here so bad and play in this game. As soon as I did my last jump, I got in the car to come down here.”
For Carroll, having these two compete during practice, only makes them better.
“Iron sharpens iron,” Carroll said of the two players’ intense practices. “They go at it every day. Jokobe gets better and DJ learns how to beat him and it goes back and forth. That is going to be a great to have.”
After the game, the two walked off the field together, looking forward to square off next Thursday on the road against Mitchell in the annual Spring game.
“This was like backyard football all over again,” Campbell said. “We just continue doing what we do every day at practice.
On the other side of the field, Zephyrhills Christian Academy Fred Adams was a force on defense registering a key fourth-quarter interception.
Senior-to-be Maddox Rivera put the Orange Squad on the board with a 27-yard TD run in the opening quarter. Pickett extended the lead to 14-0 on his 29-yard TD reception from JJ McGovern.
Campbell lit up the scoreboard for the Black squad two plays later with his 75-yard TD catch. Adams added a 15-yard touchdown run to knot the score at 14-14 with 4:31 to play.
Then Graham pulled down the interception and took off for the game-winner.