Coach: Reggie Roberts (fifth season, 22-18)
Last season: 7-3
Colors: Black and orange
Stadium: Bulldog Stadium, 6335 12th St., Zephyrhills
Playoff appearances: 1989, 1993, 1995, 1997, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2006
Last appearance: Lost 22-14 to Eustis
Aug. 29 vs. Wesley Chapel, 7:30
Sept. 5 vs. Gulf, 7:30
Sept. 12 at Mitchell, 7:30
Sept. 19 vs. South Sumter, 7:30
Sept. 26 at Weeki Wachee, 7:30
Oct. 10 vs. Nature Coast, 7:30
Oct. 17 vs. Central, 7:30
Oct. 24 at Hernando, 7:30
Oct. 31 at Pasco, 7:30
Nov. 7 at Sunlake, 7:30
Mark your calendar
Zephyrhills vs. South Sumter, Sept. 19: Though the Pasco vs. Zephyrhills matchup might be the most highly awaited, the Bulldogs’ Week 4 meeting with last year’s district champ will be their chance to begin its campaign for the postseason. Zephyrhills lost 38-15 to the Raiders last year, and South Sumter could be just as good this season. But if the Bulldogs can pull out a win against its district rival early, they might not have to play catch up down the stretch.
Playoff drought: Though Zephyrhills has had a winning season each of the past three years, the Bulldogs haven’t made the playoffs since 2006. Last year, earning a playoff spot came down to a game with rival Pasco, one which Zephyrhills lost 24-16.
Experience under center: Quarterback Ty Tanner was a first-year starter who didn’t exceed 500 passing yards last season. Now that he’s had a year under center, coach Reggie Roberts is looking forward to seeing a whole lot more from the leader of his offense.
9-Mile War: Last year, with a playoff spot on the line, the Pasco vs. Zephyrhills game drew an estimated 8,000 people. Even when there’s nothing at stake, the rivalry is always a focal point of the season. With Zephyrhills hungry for a postseason berth, it could be out for revenge this time.
Transfers: Zephyrhills has restocked its roster with the help of several transfers. Some of the new Bulldogs? Lakeland RB/DB Lawrence Everett, Pasco RB/DB Tyler Barber and Blake OL Jonah Thomas.
Offensive progress: It’s been no secret that for the last few years, when given the choice, the Bulldogs prefer to run the ball. But, Roberts said, all of that is about to change. Now that his skills players have some experience under their belts, the fifth-year coach expects his offense to be more two-dimensional.
ATH Jaylen Pickett, Sr.: At No. 44 in our HomeTeam 100, Pickett came up big for the Bulldogs last year, and Roberts expects him to do the same in 2014. As a junior, he recorded 12 touchdowns and 808 rushing yards while adding 75 receiving yards and 36 tackles on defense.
FB/LB Lorine Parker, Sr.: Parker came up with 188 rushing yards and a team-high six sacks last season. When the Bulldogs took on Oak Ridge in May, he didn’t waste any time asserting himself, scoring a touchdown in Zephyrhills’ 36-21 loss.
QB Ty Tanner, Sr: With 381 rushing and 451 receiving yards last season, Tanner can beat you on the ground or through the air. This season, Roberts thinks the second-year starter will dazzle us even more with his arm.
LB Artonyo Lee, Jr.: Lee led the Bulldogs in tackles last season, and the 5-foot-9, 180-pound linebacker continues to impress, Roberts said.
OL Jonah Thomas, Jr.: Thomas played just one game as a sophomore at Blake last season, but Roberts expects the transfer and his 6-foot-4, 275-pound frame to come in handy on a young offensive line.
WR/S Jackie Tucker, Jr.: Tucker had just 9 yards of offense and four tackles last season for the Bulldogs, but the two-way player could be a game changer this time around. Even though Zephyrhills lost its spring game to Orlando Oak Ridge, the game was a coming-out party for Tucker, who came up with huge plays for the Bulldogs, including a touchdown and an interception. After a big summer in the weight room, too, Roberts expects Tucker to be one of his go-to guys on offense.
RB/LB Antwione Sims, So.: Roberts is excited about the experience of his skill players, and Sims is no exception. With a year of varsity football under his belt, Sims should top his freshman year totals of 220 yards and one touchdown.
“We have to maintain our focus and do what we do best. We have to be mentally tough. That’s the one thing left I would like my football team to be better at. Even when you’re down; even when things aren’t going our way.” — Roberts