ZEPHYRHILLS — The near perfect start to Zephyrhills’ Homecoming transformed into a near disaster. But the Bulldogs held on Friday for a wild 35-28 win over Fivay to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Fivay trailed 35-7 in the second half but got to the 9-yard line with 17 seconds left and a chance to force overtime. Lorine Parker came up with a huge sack of Tyler Degen for a 10-yard loss. The Falcons spiked the ball with less than a second remaining but their final pass fell incomplete.
The Bulldogs (5-3, 5-1) are likely headed to a three-way tiebreaker with Fivay (5-3, 4-2) and Anclote to decide a playoff spot.
“That was nervewracking for sure, but I had faith in our defense,” said Zephyrhills quarterback Mike Smith.
He had nearly put the game away at the two-minute mark but his 34-yard pass for the end zone was dropped by Jarret Kelly, Smith first incompletion of the game.
But instead Fivay took over and, showing the remarkable poise it had all second half, moved the ball behind Degen and receiver Andrew Meyer. Degen completed five passes, the last to Meyer for 22 yards to the 9.
Meyer finished with 10 catches, many of the difficult variety, for 157 yards and two scores.
“We came in here, we just had our heads too big. Coach (Chris Taylor) gave us a pretty good halftime speech and we were ready to play. There just wasn’t enough time.”
The first half was a dud for Fivay, which would have locked up a playoff spot with a win. Degen was intercepted three times, two courtesy of Jordan Roberts, both leading to Bulldogs touchdowns.
But Fivay didn’t panic, never tried an onside kick and continued to run the ball with Davion Sutton who went for 149 yards on 29 carries. His 1-yard score after a catch by Meyer made it 35-21 with 9:53 left. Degen’s 13-yard pass to Kevin Faulkner got the margin to seven.
For the Bulldogs Jaylen Pickett had 100 yards from scrimmage with three touchdowns.
Devon Brockington’s pick ended Fivay’s first drive, and after a Willie Williams 52-yard run the Bulldogs took the lead on Malik Mutcherson’s 15-yard scoring run.