The Pasco Pirates wanted to play spoiler for the Zephyrhills Bulldogs once again, and earn a trip to the playoffs themselves. Instead, they were beat by a tough Nature Coast Tech team that almost outlasted the Bulldogs in a single-quarter playoff Monday night.
That means Zephyrhills (7-2) is going to the playoffs for the first time in eight years as the Bulldogs finish as the Class 5A-District 7 runner-up behind the undefeated South Sumter.
Also heading to the playoffs once again, but winning its first-ever Class 6A-District 6 title was Sunlake High School (8-1), outlasting Mitchell (6-3) in front of a home crowd in its one-quarter playoff. Mitchell will enter the Class 6A playoffs in two weeks as well, finishing as the district runner-up.
The Bulldogs almost didn’t make it into the playoffs once again. They took on their longtime rival, Pasco High School, last week with a 7-1 record in a game they were finally expected to win against a 5-3 team. But the Pirates stayed close the Bulldogs, and eked out a single-point victory in overtime.
That forced the playoff, involving not only Pasco, but Nature Coast Tech (5-4). However, the Pirates were not able to survive that challenge, and watched as the Sharks took on Zephyrhills in a chance to earn that last playoff berth.
Sunlake will host the first game of the Class 6A regional quarterfinals, taking on Ocala’s Vanguard High School. That team finished with a 4-4 record, but chalked up two of those wins against district opponents, according to MaxPreps. The Knights have not really dominated this season, virtually even between points scored and points allowed.
The Seahawks, on the other hand, have outscored their opponents 6-to-1.
Those teams match up Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m. at Sunlake.
Zephyrhills will face Suwannee, out of Live Oak, a team also known as the Bulldogs. Suwannee powered its way to a 9-0 record, outscoring opponents 337-116. Zephyrhills is no pushover itself, also boasting a powerful offense that has outscored opponents 366-189.
If the local Bulldogs find a way to beat Suwannee, there’s a good chance their foe in the regional semifinals will be South Sumter, one of the two losses Zephyrhills posted this year. Few chunks have been found in the Raiders’ armor this season, and will be battling North Marion High School in the first round, a team that finished 7-2 on the season and looked almost as dominating as Suwannee in the same division.
Zephyrhills will travel to Live Oak Nov. 14 for its 7:30 p.m. contest at Paul Langford Stadium.