LAND O’LAKES — After a sluggish first half, Land O’Lakes and Zephyrhills produced a thrilling finish with the Gators prevailing 28-24 Friday. James Pensyl’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Ethan Weilant with 2:55 proved to be the winner.
The Gators twice overcame 10-point deficits, including a 10-0 halftime margin. Their second comeback started when, with Zephyrhills leading 24-14 and at midfield to start the fourth, Ben Moultrie intercepted Ty Tanner.
Weilant’s first TD reception, a 40-yarder on fourth down, pulled the Gators within range with 9:25 to go. It also accounted for more yards than an ailing Pensyl had mustered up to that point. The 6-foot-7 Pensyl finished 12-of-25 for 111 yards.
Jaylen Pickett’s 48-yard TD on a screen pass had given the Bulldogs the 24-14 advantage. Pickett finished with 108 combined yards, with 57 of them coming on four carries in the first quarter alone. Tanner hit Kirby Austen for an 8-yard score with three minutes to go in the period. Zach Gleaton made it 10-0 when he hammered a 41-yard field goal.
The teams combined for 15 penalties in the sloppy first half. Pensyl struggled to 2-for-10 for just 9 yards, with half of his throws dropped by the intended receiver. Land O Lakes didn’t get a first down until a personal foul on the Bulldogs several minutes into the second quarter.
One positive came in the sack department, with the Gators recording five in the half. And they came up with three more in the game-clinching stop, including one by Anthony Hendricks who had 3 1/2 on the night. Zephyrhills lost 54 yards on nine sacks.
Larenz Scroggins ran for 119 yards, with 63 on the second play of the second half to give the Gators their first signs of life. Land O’Lakes sat out several starters the first half for disciplinary reasons and needed less than four minutes to take the lead. But the Bulldogs answered with two touchdowns in 90 seconds.
Weilant added a rushing touchdown to go with his 73 receiving yards, all in the second half. Reginald Roberts made several hits on defense for Zephyrhills.