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Season of takeaways continues for Zephyrhills

The Bulldogs have proven to be very good at forcing turnovers. Nothing changed against Wesley Chapel on Friday.
The Zephyrhills defense remains fierce, helping stake the Bulldogs to a 34-9 win over Wesley Chapel on Friday night.
The Zephyrhills defense remains fierce, helping stake the Bulldogs to a 34-9 win over Wesley Chapel on Friday night. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Sep. 18

WESLEY CHAPEL — Zephyrhills relied on a ball-hawking defense — forcing four turnovers for the third time in four games this season — and an opportunistic offense that scored on its first possession in each half of Friday night’s 34-9 win over Wesley Chapel at Wildcat Stadium.

It marked the Class 5A, District 9 opener for both teams. Zephyrhills (4-0, 1-0) scored on two of the four turnovers and got another touchdown two plays after forcing another.

With Zephyrhills leading 13-7 in the second quarter and Wesley Chapel (1-1, 0-1) gaining some momentum after Dylan Mcginnis recovered a fumble on a kickoff, the tide turned quickly in the Bulldogs’ favor. Nick Sheldon stripped the football from Jaylan Blake and ran into the end zone from 71 yards out that helped stake Zephyrhills to a 20-7 lead.

Late in the fourth quarter, Tymar Mckever returned an interception 56 yards for the final score of the game.

Earlier, Jakobe Campbell’s interception of Wesley Chapel quarterback Ethan Harper set up the first of two Jaylin Thomas touchdown runs. Kamil Mehrab added an interception for Zephyrhills.

“It helps, obviously, if we can get touchdowns on defense so we don’t have to do it on offense,” Zephyrhills coach Nick Carroll said.

In the previous week’s 42-0 win over Fivay, Zephyrhills got touchdowns on each of its possessions to start the half. The Bulldogs did it again against Wesley Chapel. The Wildcats opened the game by punting after five plays and the Bulldogs capped a six-play, 51-yard drive with Jaxson Rivera’s 24-yard scoring pass to T.J. Jackson, who caught the ball in the right flat and weaved through three defenders for the score.

Trailing 13-0, Wesley Chapel got its lone touchdown just three plays after Thomas’ 6-yard scoring run. Blake burst off left tackle and beat a host of defenders down the left sideline for a 60-yard touchdown. Thanks in part to the longest run of the game, Blake rushed for a team-high 128 yards on 13 carries.

Thomas, however, had a game-leading 158 yards on 13 carries.

The Wildcats also wound up with a safety just before halftime. With Zephyrhills pinned at its own 2-yard line after a fourth-and-goal attempt by Wesley Chapel came up short, Willie Queen took a handoff from Rivera and was gang tackled in the end zone.