ZEPHYRHILLS — In typical Tom Fisher fashion, the coach revealed little about just how in the heck he guided Zephyrhills to arguably its most surprising victory in his 20 seasons.
Career win No. 123 caught everyone from prognosticators to Bulldogs athletic director Craig Milburn off guard. Zephyrhills defeated bigger, healthier, dare it be said more talented, Wesley Chapel 28-0 Friday.
"I knew we had the potential to win," Fisher said. "… We haven't beaten them like that in a long time."
The Bulldogs' freefall can be charted to last season when they were 5-2 and in position to win the Class 3A, District 8 title. Zephyrhills dropped four of its last five, including a 23-17 loss to Hudson in the district finale while Pasco upended Gulf 45-34 the same night to sneak off with the title. The Bulldogs went from district leaders to out of the playoffs.
When this season began, Zephyrhills had plenty of questions. Who would run the ball? Who would block? And how would the Bulldogs overcome the immaturity that led to the 2007 demise?
Making matters worse was a late schedule change that moved a game with powerful Miami Gulliver Prep to Week 1, which ended with a 35-6 loss.
In Week 2, the Bulldogs lost 11-9 to Mitchell. Then came Week 3 and a hard-fought 11-3 loss at Land O'Lakes.
Then came a rash of injuries. Few gave Zephyrhills a chance at that point, but the Bulldogs hosted Sunlake and pulled out a 21-9 victory. That one was expected.
Then came the Wesley Chapel win. Five days later, many are still trying to figure it out.
"They persevered," Fisher said. "The kids hung in there, they believed in themselves and just responded."
The Bulldogs are 2-3 overall but 1-0 in 3A-8. That sets up Friday's game in Dade City with Zephyrhills surging and Pasco coming off an 18-17 loss to Nature Coast.
And in hopes of limiting bulletin-board material Pasco can scavenge, Fisher declined a request to speak with players.
"You can talk to them all you want next week," he said with a laugh.