Coach: Troy Hochstetler and Greg Mathis (interims)
Class: 3A, District 7
Stadium: Bulldog Stadium, 6335 12th St., Zephyrhills
Playoff history: 1989, 1993, 1995, 1997, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2006
Last appearance: Lost 22-14 to Eustis
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Building blocks of a good season
A. Senior leadership: The senior captains - Anthony Viernes, Michael Peterman, Ben Williams, Josh Geiger - have stepped up quickly after the firing of head coach Jerrell Cogmon. "The fact they have taken charge of the situation to help the players and the coaches ... they've stepped up and become leaders," co-interim coach Troy Hochstetler said.
B. Anthony Viernes: First because of his leadership; second because of his command of the defense. "He's basically like my sergeant major on the field making sure everything gets done, making sure everyone is getting fired up for the game," Hochstetler said. A three-year starter at middle linebacker, Viernes ranked third last season with 77 tackles and had 41/2 sacks.
C. Offensive line: After a difficult 2008, the Bulldogs worked hard in the offseason to ensure they could better protect the quarterback and create running lanes. To do that, Duke Morrison, Stephen Cottrell, John Dodd and Joseph Stephens learned to adjust to the varsity level last year. Now they'll be the eye of the offense, more knowledgeable about defensive schemes and blocking assignments. "They were so young, all sophomores last year," Hochstetler said. "... I think they'll be exciting to watch the next two years."
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123s Three potential pitfalls
1. Depth: Typically with Zephyrhills rosters, the number of players is relatively low. This year, there are 37 Bulldogs and Hochstetler said he and co-interim coach Greg Mathis will do their best to limit how many players will play offense and defense. That's key if Zephyrhills hopes to make it through the season with few injuries.
2. The defensive line needs to step up: The unit is comprised of younger players looking to establish themselves. Terrance Stewart came up from JV while Brad Peacock was a transfer and Manny Godinez saw limited playing time. Now they are the starters. "I want them to adjust to the schemes and the techniques we've introduced to them," Hochstetler said. "I want to see them get a good grasp."
3. Coping with Cogmon's firing: "They could have fallen apart," Hochstetler said. "That was definitely an adversity they had to face. Some teams, college and pro, when the head coach is gone they struggle to stay together as a cohesive unit. These kids have been able to do that."
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Extra credit The X-factor
Desire and drive to play football:"They've heard from their peers around the county the season is not going to be great," Hochstetler said. "They want to prove those people wrong."
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Opposing coach's quotes
"They always have great athletes and seem to have a good football team. I don't know the coach now and don't know those guys too well. They're always ready in years past." - Wesley Chapel coach John Castelamare
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D; The Bulldogs handled the Cogmon situation perhaps better than could be expected. It would have been catastrophic to bring in a new head coach just days before the season. How the team responds to two head coaches remains to be seen. If it were a good model, other teams would have used it long ago.