Sunday, October 21, 2018
Hometeam

Nothing beats the tradition of the 9-Mile War

ZEPHYRHILLS — When it comes to Pasco County high school football rivalries, nothing compares to the annual Zephyrhills-Pasco clash — otherwise known as the 9-Mile War.

Simply put, it is the oldest, fiercest rivalry in the county.

"It’s like the Hatfields and the McCoys when it’s going on," said Zephyrhills police captain Reggie Roberts, a former standout Bulldog player who later came back to coach at his alma mater.

"You get the bragging rights for the entire year," added Ricky Giles, Roberts’ father who was a Zephyrhills three-sport athlete before spending more than three decades coaching football and baseball at Pasco High in Dade City.

The neighboring East Pasco cities switch hosting a traditional prep game that dates to 1941. This year’s skirmish is Friday night at Bulldog Stadium with host Zephyrhills going for a third straight win in the rivalry— after seven consecutive losses.

Pasco leads the series all-time by a substantial margin, 40-19. This will the 60th version of the 9-Mile War, a number that includes two matchups in 1993 and 1994 as well as several years in which the rivalry was skipped.

No annual football game in the county involves entire communities like this one. Mayors Gene Whitfield and Camille Hernandez, of Zephyrhills and Dade City, respectively, again have a bet on the outcome.

As always, Whitfield is wagering a case of Zephyrhills bottled water while Hernandez has put up a case of kumquats in tribute to Dade City’s annual Kumquat Festival.

"It helps to keep the relationship light," Whitfield said. "We want to have a little fun with it and not perpetuate anything like a war."

There also is a traveling plaque at stake. In 2000, former Zephyrhills city councilman and longtime Rotarian Manny Funes worked businesses in the east Pasco cities to help fund a plaque with accompanying scholarship money. The winning team keeps the plaque for a year while scholarship funds are dispersed at both schools.

For his part, Roberts, who later played at Bethune-Cookman, said playing and coaching in that rivalry left him with long-lasting impressions.

"The camaraderie, the spirit and what it does for the community is amazing," he said. "When (the game is) going on, it takes a few snaps, whether you’re a coach or a player, to bring the emotion down. Then, after the game is over, you have family on both sides. I’m still not Pirate and they’re still not a Bulldog, but we can all get along."

"It means a lot more, because we all intermingle," Giles said of the game that sometimes pits relatives on opposing sides. "You can go to a football game and see everybody. That’s almost as important as the game."

Second-year Zephyrhills coach Nick Carroll, who also has played in the rivalry as a Bulldog, was ecstatic to defeat Pasco last season. Even better, he noted, was defeating the Pirates at their home, W.F. Edwards Stadium.

"It felt good to beat Pasco at Pasco," he said. "That’s the way to take care of your rival."

Noting his team’s 3-6 record compared to Zephyrhills’ 8-1 mark and the fact that the Bulldogs have already clinched a district title, Pasco coach Tom McHugh spoke of the ebb and flow of the rivalry.

"I remember how it used to be," he said. "It’s the other way around now."

Before Zephyrhills’ run of three straight playoff appearances as district runners-up, Pasco had a run of seven consecutive playoff berths that included two region final and one state semifinal appearances.

A victory this year will not change anything for the Bulldogs, who host a first-round playoff game, or the rebuilding Pirates, who will wind up with a losing record regardless. Still, the long-standing rivalry means there is plenty at stake.

"I’m just trying to be competitive now," said McHugh, adding, "No one wants to lose the last game of the season. The seniors don’t want to lose the final game of their careers."

Carroll acknowledged the rivalry more than McHugh, saying, "It doesn’t matter what your record is, you play for the history and pride, and beating Pasco."

Comments
Former Gulf star Alton Voss bringing cautionary tale back home

Former Gulf star Alton Voss bringing cautionary tale back home

Contrary to conventional logic, former Gulf High three-way star Alton Voss lived to tell about his downward spiral into drug addiction.This week, he'll tell it to Pasco County students.Voss, a onetime USF signee who resurrected his career (and earned...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Sunday Morning Quarterback: Plant City makes things interesting

Sunday Morning Quarterback: Plant City makes things interesting

Highlights from Week 9:Player of the WeekTre'Pavis Mobley, Zephyrhills: The playmaker usually has the biggest impact on offense as a receiver. On Friday, he shined on defense, picking off two passes and swatting away two others to help the Bulldogs b...
Published: 10/21/18
District volleyball: Battle-tested Calvary Christian ready for region run

District volleyball: Battle-tested Calvary Christian ready for region run

TAMPA — Calvary Christian’s volleyball team looks tough, tested and ready for a strong run at a Class 4A state title.For proof, look no farther than the past two days when the Warriors defeated a tough Tampa Prep squad in three games, then followed F...
Published: 10/20/18
Football: Clearwater 27, Boca Ciega 26

Football: Clearwater 27, Boca Ciega 26

GULFPORT — Boca Ciega needed to gain 3 yards in the final six seconds of Friday night’s Class 6A, District 9 game against Clearwater to win its first district championship since 2007. But it was the Tornadoes who got the stop in a thrilling 27-26 win...
Published: 10/19/18
Updated: 10/20/18
Football: Clearwater Central Catholic 14, Jesuit 6

Football: Clearwater Central Catholic 14, Jesuit 6

TAMPA — Rory Hicks is elusive and efficient. He can scramble to buy time in the pocket or take off to pick up timely first downs. The Clearwater Central Catholic senior also is careful with the football, rarely making a costly mistake. But of all the...
Published: 10/19/18
Updated: 10/20/18
Football: Zephyrhills 48, Wesley Chapel 0

Football: Zephyrhills 48, Wesley Chapel 0

ZEPHYRHILLS — The Homecoming crowd could not ask for any more, but they got it anyway. With a running clock winding down a district title and playoff-clinching victory, Zephyrhills fans got one last thrill as Tre’pavis Mobley ended the night with a 1...
Published: 10/19/18
Updated: 10/20/18

Football: Tampa Bay Tech 51, Durant 14

TAMPA — Tampa Bay Tech’s district finale will mean something after all.The Titans rebounded from a mistake-plagued loss to rout Durant 51-14 on Friday night. The victory, combined with Plant City’s 24-10 victory against Bloomingdale, keeps Tech’s bid...
Published: 10/19/18
Updated: 10/20/18

Football: Plant City 24, Bloomingdale 10

PLANT CITY — After a holding penalty around midfield, Plant City faced a big third and long late in the fourth quarter against district foe Bloomingdale. The Raiders had led all night, but now they were up by just one score, and the Bulls defense was...
Published: 10/19/18
Updated: 10/20/18

Football: Steinbrenner 35, Alonso 19

TAMPA — Haden Carlson threw for three touchdowns and ran for another as Steinbrenner held on to defeat Alonso in a wild Class 8A, District 6 matchup that featured 28 penalties for nearly 300 yards, five turnovers, multiple ejections and a pair of sa...
Published: 10/19/18
Updated: 10/20/18

Football: Newsome 49, Palm Harbor University 16

PALM HARBOR — Just imagine if Newsome had its full arsenal of weapons.Considering the 49-16 hurting the Wolves put on district foe Palm Harbor University on Friday, it’s hard to believe the visitors came into the game missing their top rusher in seni...
Published: 10/19/18