A reversal of fortune gave Shawn Daughtery and Zephyrhills High one more chance to beat archrival Pasco in the Class 4A, District 9 championship game Tuesday.
Daughtery had just thrown an interception to set up Pasco's go-ahead touchdown with 4 minutes and 37 seconds remaining when it seemed all the Bulldogs had to do was run to control the ball and the clock.
But coach Tom Fisher wanted to pass to set up a reverse to Demetrius McKay that he had hoped would lead to the clinching touchdown.
Instead, Fisher found that the Bulldogs had to run the reverse to try and get in position to come from behind and win after Pasco had taken a 20-16 lead.
So when Zephyrhills took possession at its 39-yard line with 4:30 remaining, Fisher went to the trick play on first down and it worked.
Daughtery dropped back and rolled left and handed the ball to McKay, who came back around right end and ran 18 yards to the Pasco 43-yard line. Daughtery then passed 21 yards to B.J. Booker before Mike Barber ran six yards to the 17.
The next play Daughtery again rolled left and lofted the ball to a wide-open Rick Moore in the end zone and the Bulldogs had the lead with 2:40 remaining. Shay Daughtery's kick made it 23-20.
Shay Daughtery kicked off and Cleo Stinyard returned 20 yards to the 35. On the next play, quarterback Artie Meza took the snap and ran for nine yards up the middle before he was stripped and Gary Steele recovered for Zephyrhills with 1:59 left.
Pasco, with no timeouts left, was unable to stop the clock and Daughtery and Co. ran it out for the 23-20 victory.
"I really wanted another chance after my interception," Daughtery said. "And to come down and get the winning touchdown after they took the lead made it that much more sweet."
Zephyrhills improved to 7-0 overall and clinched the 4A-9 title with a 4-0 mark. Pasco dropped to 5-2 and 3-1. Still, the Pirates could clinch a runner-up playoff berth if Seminole Osceola beat Tampa Robinson late Friday. Otherwise, Pasco would have to beat Robison later this month to clinch.
It looked as if Pasco would be district champ late in the game. Ben Toomer intercepted Daughtery's pass over the middle and returned 18 yards to the Bulldogs' 32. The Pirates moved to 13 where they faced fourth down and two when Meza, escaping a sack attempt, passed to the left flat to Morgan Evans, who broke a tackle at the 10 and scored. Jeremy Gude's kick made it 20-16 with 4:37 left.
Pasco trailed 16-6 at halftime but cut the margin to 16-13 midway through the third quarter when Dashawn Southward ran 24 yards around left end for a touchdown. Sothward's 14-yard run and a personal foul afer the play on Zephyrhills gave Pasco first down at the Zephyrhills' 45 to get Pasco in scoring position.
Penalties helped Zephyrhills get into scoring position on the game's first possession. But after roughing-the-quarterback and face-mask penalties gave the Bulldogs first down at the Pirates' 18-yard line, Pasco's defense stiffened and Zephyrhills had to settle for a 28-yard field goal by Shay Daughtery.
Pasco answered by driving 69 yards on 15 plays with Meza scoring on a 2-yard sneak. The pass failed an Pasco led 6-3 with 2 seconds left in the fist quarter. Meza ran 5 yards for a fourth down and 1 from the Zephyrhills 36 to keep the drive alive.
Zephyrhills turned the ball over on its next possession as Mike Barber was stripped and Pasco's Brian Cructher recovered at the Bulldogs' 40. But on the next play Meza tried to hit A.J. Jones deep and the Bulldogs' Josh Willis intercepted at the 20 and returned 35 yards to the Pirates' 45.
It took Zephyrhills five plays to score as Barber took a quick pitch from Daughtery and ran around right end yards into the end zone.