ZHS Lets The Dogs Out

Bulldogs Football Begins Friday 

Story and photos by Dave Walters

Dajuan McCullough battles during blocking drills as the Bulldogs prepare for Friday night’s season opener against Tampa Catholic.

The roller coaster ride that has been the 2020Zephyrhills High School football season will hit the top of the highest hill and take a thrilling, high speed dash Friday night when the Bulldogs finally open the season after a COVID-19 case within the program caused a two-week delay.

The Bulldogs will welcome fans at home Friday night when they face the undefeated (2-0) Tampa Catholic Crusaders.

“We’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” said senior running back Zyre Roundtree, “We had to keep working during the quarantine. We knew everybody else was playing and we had to stay sharp. There’s nothing like the feeling of running through that tunnel on a Friday night. This one will be special.”

Special does not begin to describe the 2020 season. The Bulldogs’ season was halted before it really got started when the entire squad, along with dozens of other students were ordered to quarantine Sept. 4 for two weeks, a week before the scheduled season opener against Lake Gibson.

Back in June and July, the Florida High School Athletics Association pondered not having the 2020season or not starting it until November. Players and coaches wondered if there would be a season at all.

“We already thought early on that we weren’t going to have a season, then we were told we could play and then the COVID case happened. I thought they were going to take it away again,” said senior lineman Jarrin Galyan. “The worst ran through my mind. I thought they would cancel the whole thing for us.”

Zephyrhills coach Nick Carroll looks at Friday night like it’s Christmas Day.

“It’s like Santa Claus comes halfway down the chimney and then goes away for two or three weeks,” Carroll explained. “Then he comes back and says he’s coming down and then he leaves again. As a kid, you can’t wait for him to come and then you wake up and see all those presents.”

Carroll has watched his players given the opportunity to play and then have it taken away from them in an instant.

“I was upset. I was really upset,” said senior defensive lineman Brian Ash more. “I thought our season was going to be taken away from us. Now that we’re back, I’m ready to win. I’m ready to hear that band play every time we score.”

Head coach Nick Carroll works with his offense during Tuesday’s practice.

The band will be playing in front of a half-capacity crowd according to ZHS Principal Dr. Christina Stanley. Masks and face coverings must be worn at all time sunless eating or drinking at that moment. The school is encouraging social distancing.

It will be a different Friday night football experience, but football is back.

“I’m really excited,” Stanley said. “I know that the students really want to get to as much normal as possible and part of normal is football and school. It is good to get back to some of the Friday night lights excitement.

“I know this community wants to come celebrate the kids and cheer on

the team. It is definitely part of the culture of this community. I am looking forward to some familiar faces there too.

ZHS Athletic Director Bruce Cimorelli noted that fans wanting to make sure they have tickets before the stadium reaches capacity can purchase tickets online at ticketspicket.com. Fans enter Zephyrhills and register to buy tickets. Tickets will also be sold at the gate until the stadium reaches the half capacity.

Senior running back Zyre Roundtree will be looking forward to running through the tunnel and through the Tampa Catholic defense Friday night.

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