ZEPHYRHILLS — Reggie Roberts’ frustration after Zephyrhills’ 34-13 preseason victory over Land O’Lakes shows just how far his program has come.
Instead of focusing on his first victory over one of Pasco County’s most storied programs, Roberts dwelled on Friday night’s fumbles, penalties and errors.
“If we want to have the kind of season we know we can have, we’ve got to eliminate those mistakes — period,” Roberts said.
Zephyrhills showed flashes of playoff potential.
Division I prospect Jordan Roberts — a track and basketball standout — started his senior season with a breakout performance.
He scored three touchdowns three different ways — on a 67-yard pass from Ty Tanner, a 92-yard kickoff return and a 70-yard interception return.
He added a one-handed two-point conversion catch during a flurry in which the teams combined for 27 points in 2:02.
“Jordan has made that transition to a football player now,” his coach said.
Zephyrhills had plenty of other highlights, too.
Devin Brockington snared two interceptions, Malik Mutcherson broke for a 46-yard touchdown rush, and Lorine Parker rumbled for a 23-yard touchdown early in the second half. The Bulldogs’ defense held Land O’Lakes to only 17 completions on 49 attempts.
But, for Roberts, the errors overshadowed the progress. His team fumbled six snaps and lost three other fumbles — signs of concern for a team that narrowly missed the playoffs each of the last two seasons.
“We’ve got to make a playoff run,” Roberts said. “We can’t do it with this kind of stuff we did tonight. We’re a better team than we were tonight.”
Land O’Lakes took advantage of some of the Bulldogs’ mistakes. The Gators converted on third down early on James Pensyl’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Javin Tandy.
Stefan Zapata added a highlight-reel 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, and Deionte Strozier blocked a punt in the second half but couldn’t capitalize with a score.
“They call it a kickoff classic for a reason,” Gators coach Brian Wachtel said. “Tonight was a teaching moment.”