In the end, they were outscored and outmanned, and simply outnumbered.
On the opening kickoff of Friday's 34-14 playoff loss to Jesuit, the Bulldogs could look across the field and see a chain of Tigers players raising hands from one 25-yard line to the other _ more than twice the players Zephyrhills brought to Corral Stadium.
"It's tough, but there's nothing you can do about it," said senior Justin Whitworth, one of several two-way starters for the Bulldogs. "We've got what we have, they have what they have. They're a good team. They deserved to win."
Tailback Michael Moody, pondering the end of his high school career, said Jesuit had "about a 1,000 more people than us." But it was the senior standout who gave the Bulldogs their finest moments Friday.
On the Tigers' first play, tailback Aaron Fryer tried to juke through the Bulldogs defense, but Moody pried the ball out of his hands.
His halfback option on first down fell incomplete, however, and he was stuffed for a 2-yard loss on the next play, and the Bulldogs had to be content to pin Jesuit on its 2-yard line after punting.
But the Zephyrhills defense wore down and the Bulldogs found themselves down 27-0 at halftime.
"It's real tough," said Moody, who finished with more than 1,000 rushing yards for the second straight season. "But I'm really happy. This is my first playoff game. We just couldn't finish it up."
Jesuit, ranked third in Class 3A and advancing to the second round for the fifth straight year, had shut out Zephyrhills in each of the past two seasons.
Even down 27 points, the Bulldogs came out of halftime with intensity, driving 77 yards in 16 plays and getting an 8-yard touchdown from Moody to end their personal scoring drought against the Tigers. James Adamo dived in from 2 yards for a second late score, adding a little dignity to a disappointing finish.
"We came back and got on the board," coach Tom Fisher said. "You get in a hole against a playoff team, a 10-0 team, it's hard to get back in it, but we gave it a shot with what we had."
Like the Bulldogs' season, the team's success was limited by injuries. Defensive lineman Nick Maxwell injured his right ankle in the first quarter and did not return, and Whitworth was relegated to holding on extra points after aggravating a shoulder injury in the second quarter.
"We worked all here to get here, and I can't even play," said Whitworth, who suffered the injury when he was hit while throwing the winning touchdown pass against River Ridge a week earlier.
A week before that, he caught a 59-yard touchdown pass in the final minute of Zephyrhills' win over Pasco, which put them in Friday's game and in the playoffs for the first time since 1997. Despite Friday's score, that is what Whitworth will remember most about his senior season.
"I'm never been on a football team over .500," he said. "I've never beaten Pasco, so that's something. You get greedy. You always want more."
The Pasco County Curse claimed three more victims in the postseason this week: Land O'Lakes, Wesley Chapel and Zephyrhills. County teams are just 11-23 in the postseason (not counting bowl games) in the modern era. Pasco owns nine of those victories, but five came during the Pirates' 1992 state-championship run. Land O'Lakes and Zephyrhills are the only other county teams to win playoff games. River Ridge and Wesley Chapel are the only county teams to make it to the postseason but not win there. But five county teams _ Gulf, Hudson, Mitchell and Ridgewood _ have never been there (Mitchell is just a first-year team, though). Pasco County has now lost six consecutive playoff games and has gone 1-8 since 1998.
THE GOOD ...
1983 _ Pasco 36, Bartow 27; Pasco 29, Orlando Jones 13
1991 _ Pasco 28, Eustis 7
1992 _ Pasco 33, St. Cloud 13; Pasco 37, South Sumter 0; Pasco 21, Pasce 17; Pasco 28, Jesuit 16+
1994 _ Pasco 37, Lakewood 7
1993 _ Land O'Lakes 21, Lakewood 7
1997 _ Zephyrhills 7, Crystal River 0
1998 _ Pasco 38, Citrus 21
... AND THE BAD
1977 _ Bartow 39, Pasco 8
1978 _ Bartow 19, Land O'Lakes 0
1983 _ Palatka 18, Pasco 13
1987 _ Sanford Seminole 16, Land O'Lakes 7
1988 _ Oviedo 24, Land O'Lakes 6
1991 _ Alachua Santa Fe 35, Pasco 16
1992 _ Leesburg 47, Land O'Lakes 0
1993 _ Osceola 35, Zephyrhills 3; Alachua Santa Fe 41, Land O'Lakes 0
1994 _ Alachua Santa Fe 34, Pasco 27
1995 _ Lakeland 34, River Ridge 10; Bartow 21, Zephyrhills 17
1996 _ Lakeland 45, River Ridge 10
1997 _ Ocala Vanguard 28, Land O'Lakes 7; Gainesville Eastside 24, Zephyrhills 0
1998 _ Belleview 33, Land O'Lakes 0; Ocala Vanguard 42, River Ridge 5; Alachua Santa Fe 42, Pasco 20.
1999 _ Belleview 48, Land O'Lakes 16
2000 _ South Lake 38, Land O'Lakes 14
2001 _ Ocala Forest 7, Land O'Lakes 6; Jesuit 34, Zephyrhills 14; Wauchula Hardee 35, Wesley Chapel 22
+ Class 3A state championship game