Bulldogs Streak Ends; Need Big vs. Pirates

By on November 2, 2011

Not that it would comfort Zephyrhills coach Reggie Roberts, but the St. Pete Times called his team’s heartbreaking, 48-42 loss to Fivay the game of the year in Pasco County. Not only did the loss end a five game winning streak for the Bulldogs, but it may have also dashed the hope of extending a memorable season for Zephyrhills.

Leading by nine with just over five minutes left in last Friday’s thriller, it would be safe to say that Bulldogs fans that made the trip to Hudson were starting to feel pretty good about their postseason chances.

 Unbeknownst to Zephyrhills (5-3, 5-1 in 5A-District 6), the Falcons had the Bulldogs right where they wanted them.

An eight play, 73 yard drive by Fivay resulted in a three yard touchdown run by senior running back Kyrie Rodriguez (34 carries for 156 yards and two rushing touchdowns), cutting the deficit to 42-40. The ensuing onside kick with just over three minutes left was recovered by Jamie Hamby, of the Falcons, at the Zephyrhills 44 yard line.

 Fivay (6-1, 5-1) would convert the opportunity into points two plays later.

A 44 yard touchdown strike from quarterback Tyler Degen (16-26, 219 yards, two touchdown passes) to wide receiver James Bullock, followed by a two point conversion, would provide the Falcons with their winning margin and thrust them into sole possession of second place in Class 5A-District 6. The top two teams in the district will represent their schools in the state playoffs.

 Bullock was a man among boys in the contest, finishing with a school record 15 receptions for 179 yards and two scores. After the game,  Fivay coach Chris Taylor gushed about the player that may have just assured the Falcons of their first playoff appearance in program history, “I told everyone in the beginning of the season that he (Bullock) was a hell of a receiver. He’s our go-to-guy, the guy who has to make the plays. In crunch time, he’s the guy who makes plays and he did a great job of that tonight.”

 To be sure, Rodriguez and Bullock weren’t the only playmakers getting the job done. Zephyrhills quarterback Jamal Roberts continued his year-long excellence in the running game, accounting for 200 yards rushing on 12 carries. Roberts had a 62 yard touchdown run in the second quarter, a 65 yard scoring dash in the third, and a nifty 58 yard scamper that gave the Bulldogs a 42-33 edge midway through the fourth.

Adrian Sanchez of Zephyrhills returned a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown and returned a fumble 97 yards for another score, but the Bulldogs lost an opportunity to clinch its first playoff berth since 2006 by committing five turnovers and giving up more than 400 yards of total offense to the Falcons. 

Fivay travels to Ridgewood this week and Zephyrhills hosts Pasco in the 53rd installment of the Nine Mile War (Pasco leads 36-16). For the first time in years, Pasco County’s second longest rivalry has direct playoff implications for both teams. A win for the Pirates would give them their fourth straight district title. 

With the struggles that Ridgewood is having this year, it would be safe to predict that Fivay will get past the Rams rather easily on Friday. The test that the Bulldogs face this week (Pasco is ranked fourth in the state, in Class 5A, in the latest AP poll) will determine their postseason destiny.

The Bulldogs still have a chance, albeit pretty slim, to crash the postseason party, but in order to keep its playoff hopes alive, and force a three way tie for first place in the district, they would have to defeat the Pirates on Friday.

That will be a tall order, as Pasco has proven itself to be the best team in Pasco County and one of the best in the Tampa Bay area, outscoring its foes this year 489-51. The Pirates have failed to score at least 50 points in a game only once this season, a 39-6 win in week two over a good Land O’ Lakes team.

However dim the playoff hopes for Zephyrhills may be, a team that no one expected to contend this year has fought to the end and has earned the respect of the rest of the county. That much can be taken from Taylor’s postgame comments to Tampa Tribune reporter Andy Villamarzo.

“I have to give credit to Zephyrhills, they’re a great football team,” Taylor said. “They believed they were going to win this football game, just like we believed we were going to win this football game. It was going to be the team who made the least amount of mistakes tonight.”

That team was Fivay, which in only its second year of existence is a win away from its first trip to the postseason.

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