Bulldogs get their wish
By Kyle LoJacono
Zephyrhills High principal Steve Van Gorden thought it was a mistake when he first saw the tentative new football districts for next season.
Not only did the proposed alignments have the Bulldogs in a different district than east Pasco County rivals Pasco and Wesley Chapel high schools, it had them with three Polk County schools.
“It wasn’t what we were expecting,” said Van Gorden, who became Zephyrhills’ principal in 2009.
Van Gorden sent an appeal to the Florida High School Athletics Association (FHSAA), which redistricts all high school athletics every two years. The appeal was originally denied, but late action moved the Bulldogs into a district with its traditional county rivals.
“We hear a lot of appeals during redistricting and most of them are denied because it’s hard to make everything work perfectly for everyone,” said FHSAA executive officer Roger Dearing. “Things worked out that another team moved into that district, giving them four teams.”
Dearing explained they try to have at least four teams per district because the top two in each group advance to the playoffs. Mulberry High moved into Class 5A-District 9, allowing Zephyrhills to shift into 5A-6, which includes both Pasco and Wesley Chapel.
“It’s really good for us,” Van Gorden said. “Any time you can keep your natural rivals, it’s a good thing. These kids have played against each other for years in youth football and it’s community versus community when they get together. It’s a fun thing.
“Then there’s the financial issues too,” Van Gorden continued. “It’s about an hour drive one way to those Polk County schools and that’s a lot of money in transportation. It would have been hard for fans to travel, so you don’t get the gate fees. Last year the stands were packed when we played our area teams, so we can look forward to that again.”
Pasco principal Pat Reedy said he agrees the rivalry is good for the area.
“You see grandfathers watching their grandchildren playing in the game they played in years ago,” Reedy said. “It’s really a special thing to see.”
Van Gorden and Reedy have placed a friendly wager on the winner of the annual meeting between Zephyrhills and Pasco. The match up is known as the 9-Mile War, which the Pirates have won three of the last four years. Two years ago the bet was for a Blizzard at Dairy Queen, and last year Van Gorden had to wear Pirates colors and read the highlights of the game on Pasco’s morning show.
Pasco and Zephyrhills have been in the same district the last five redistricting cycles, while Wesley Chapel has for four of the last five.
Zephyrhills only appealed its placement in football, not other sports.
Class 5A-District 6
- Anclote (2-8)
- Fivay (1-4)*
- Gulf (6-4)
- Pasco (11-1)
- Ridgewood (4-6)
- Wesley Chapel?(3-7)
- Zephyrhills (2-8)
*Played a split varsity/junior varsity schedule in 2010