Zephyrhills sophomore Sederrik Cunningham reacted as if his father had just tossed him the keys to the family Porsche when he learned he was moving from wide receiver to quarterback for Friday's game against River Ridge.
"I was like, "Yeah, baby,' " he said.
After his performance in Zephyrhills' 19-0 victory at Bulldog Stadium, Cunningham earned at least one more turn behind the wheel. He rushed for one touchdown and passed for another as Zephyrhills (1-2) won for the first time this season.
"I'm just glad we got a win and hopefully they'll respond in the future," coach Tom Fisher said.
Senior Joe Burgess and junior Kyle Sizemore took most of the snaps in losses to Mulberry and Wesley Chapel. But Fisher, enamored of Cunningham's strong arm and running ability, and tired of rotating quarterbacks, decided it was time for a change.
"I had a gut feeling we needed to start him and let him go," Fisher said.
Fisher's gamble paid off immediately. On Zephyrhills' fourth play, Cunningham rolled to his right on a sprintout pass, pulled the ball down and, picking up a block from Chris Greene, raced 70 yards down the right sideline to give the Bulldogs a quick 6-0 lead. The touchdown came one play after Bryan Thomas' 73-yard scoring run was nullified by a penalty.
"I was like, "We can't get down,' " Cunningham said. "We kept our heads together and did the thing."
Zephyrhills barely had finished celebrating when River Ridge gave it reason to start again. After a bad snap, the Bulldogs' Marvin Johnson tackled punter Cameron Baker at the Royal Knights' 3. Burgess scored from 2 yards two plays later to put Zephyrhills up 13-0. Cunningham's 35-yard TD pass to Thomas midway through the second quarter completed scoring.
An aggressive Zephyrhills defense intercepted three passes and forced two fumbles while limiting River Ridge to 60 total yards, including minus-10 rushing. The Royal Knights (1-3) did not gain a yard and lost 31 on the ground in the first half.
"Blocking and tackling, that's what it takes to win a football game," River Ridge coach Mike DeGennaro said. "We didn't do either of them in the first half."