Zephyrhills used a three-pronged running attack to down Wiregrass Ranch 31-10 on a rainy Friday night.
Bulldogs’ running backs Rodney Smith, Maddox Rivera and Fred Adams, along with a stout defense were what coach Nick Carroll needed to come out of the Ranch with a win to improve to 2-1 on the season.
The weather was a factor in Carroll’s game plan to keep the ball on the ground. The Bulldogs had just six pass plays.
Smith and Rivera were the power running hitting the holes in the line with force to pick up yardage and eat up the clock, especially in the second half. Smith had three touchdown runs, all inside the five-yard line. Rivera added another score on a one-yard plunge.
“They aren’t going to hit 80-yard touchdown runs, but they are going to get positive yards every play. None of it would be possible without our offensive line. It has to be won from up front and we won up front.”
Adams is speedy elusive back that can turn a play for minimal gain into a 20-yard pickup. His key runs kept scoring drives alive.
“We have to do what’s best for our team and at the time it was better for us to run the ball,” Carroll said. “We fought field position back and forth and we told them we had to play for four quarters and keep their composure. The field and momentum turned our way.”
Smith, who has five touchdowns on the season, credited the offensive line for his success.
“It means a lot to have a running attack like we did tonight, but we couldn’t have any of it without the offensive line,” Smith said. “It has to start with them. I couldn’t have anything like I did tonight without them. A win like this means a lot for us and all the fans to come out tonight.”
Zephyrhills quarterback Brendyn Colella enjoyed a homecoming at the Ranch. The junior signal caller played for the Bulls for two seasons before transferring to Zephyrhills last spring. He knew the Bulls defense would be gunning for him.
“That is the homecoming I wanted,” Colella said looking at the scoreboard. “When we first lined up and I look at their faces, I thought damn, these were my brothers for two years. They are about to be my enemies on the field. I just shut it off and balled out.
“It’s fun to win, but this one means a lot.”
In the first half, Wiregrass jumped out to a 7-0 lead on its first possession marching down the field in under three minutes. On the third play from scrimmage, senior running back Kenneth Walker went 63 yards on a run before he driven out of bounds by Bulldog safety DJ Pickett. Walker capped it off with a six-yard TD run with 9:26 left in the opening quarter.
Both teams exchanged punts twice before the Bulldog put a 69-yard drive together that was capped off with the first of Smith’s touchdowns making the score 7-7 at the half.
Wiregrass took a 10-7 lead in the third when senior kicker Jeremy Caruso booted a 45-yard field goal. The Bulldogs answered when senior Christian Clemons booted a 32-yard field goal to knot the score 10-10
The Bulldogs’ running attack took over with Smith adding a pair of TDs and Rivera tacking on another.
Zephyrhills are back in action at home next Friday against IMG Academy White. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.