Different year, same result.
For the second straight year, the Zephyrhills Bulldogs romped the Pasco Pirates in the historic 9-Mile War, winning in a 46-0 road shutout.
Zephyrhills (8-2) dominated on both sides of the ball, racking up 369 yards of total offense, while holding Pasco (0-9) to just 92 yards.
The Bulldogs, taking advantage of positive field position and several explosive plays from running back Myles Carter and quarterback Charles Harrison III, took a 32-0 lead into halftime.
A running clock ensued once the Bulldogs commanded a 39-0 lead with 9:50 left in the third quarter.
The final touchdown of the game turned out to be the most highlight-worthy: a 90-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter by Elijah Thomas, a 5-foot-6, 150-pound junior tailback.
The rivalry, which dates back to 1941, has historically been one-sided, with Pasco leading the all-time series, 40-19. They previously won seven straight, from 2008-2014.
However, Zephyrhills won last year’s meeting, 50-16, serving as a microcosm for the direction of the two programs the last two seasons.
The Bulldogs have reached the playoffs for the third straight season, while the Pirates are seeking their first win in a season-finale against Gulf High, also 0-9. The Pirates, coached by Tom McHugh, finished 4-6 in 2015.
Under first-year coach Nick Carroll, the Bulldogs have wrapped up an impressive regular season, despite a youthful roster missing its top player in senior running back Antwione Sims, who’s yet to play in a game this season since tearing his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in March.
Prior to the start of the 2016 season, Carroll expressed confidence the team would find other playmakers to fill the void for the loss of the dynamic running back, who set a school-record 2,093 yards in 2015.
They did, thanks to a more prolific aerial attack, and a balanced rushing attack.
Sophomore receivers Tre’ Pavis Mobley (32 receptions, 657 yards, 10 touchdowns) and Jaquan Sheppard (21 receptions, 386 yards, 6 touchdowns) have been key cogs for Harrison III, who’s racked up 1,296 passing yards, 18 touchdowns, and just four interceptions.
Meanwhile, nearly 1,500 rushing yards have been dispersed through a running-back-by-committee approach featuring Thomas, Carter, Harrison III and Sheppard.
The Bulldogs will look to continue their balanced, high-powered offensive attack on Nov. 11, when they face Brooksville Nature Coast (9-0) in the Class 5A regional quarterfinals. Nature Coast averages 44.4 points per game, while Zephyrhills is averaging 35.7 points per game.
One other team in our coverage area has also qualified for the FHSAA (Florida High School Athletic Association) football playoffs. In Class 7A, Wiregrass Ranch (7-2) travels to Lakeland (7-2) on Friday, Nov. 11.
Three Key Game Stats:
- Quarterback Charles Harrison III: 7-of 16, 144 passing yards; 61 rush yards.
- Running back Elijah Thomas: four carries, 103 rushing yards.
- Defensive end Sterlin Williams accounted for three of the team’s 10 sacks.
Three Key Plays:
- Botched punt snap by Pasco leads to safety for Zephyrhills, cushioning their lead to 17-0 with 5:57 left in the first half.
- A 30-yard touchdown pass by Harrison III with 1:18 left in the second quarter gives Zephyrhills a 32-0 lead.
- A 90-yard touchdown run by Thomas, with 8:29 left in the fourth quarter, caps off the 46-0 game.
Zephyrhills Bulldogs Season Recap:
2016 Record: 8-2 (6-1 district)
Aug 26: Wiregrass Ranch (43-8 loss)
Sept. 3: Sunlake (27-15 win)
Sept. 16: Gulf (62-0 win)
Sept. 23: at Fivay (42-6 win)
Sept. 30: at Hudson (39-33 win)
Oct. 8: Ridgewood (71-12 win)
Oct. 14: at River Ridge (31-14 loss)
Oct. 21: Wesley Chapel (28-20 win)
Oct. 28: at Anclote (56-26 win)
Nov. 4 at Pasco (46-0 win)
Published November 9, 2016