WESLEY CHAPEL — The trouble for Cypress Creek really didn’t start until the third quarter, but then Zephyrhills started to pour it on in every way.
Outscoring the Coyotes by 21 points in the quarter, the Bulldogs cruised from there to a 63-35 victory, sealing the Class 3S, District 7 title in the process.
Zephyrhills (7-2, 3-0) couldn’t be stopped at any position.
The Bulldogs rushed with a couple of devastating running backs in Tristan Lennon (12 rushes, 207 yards, two touchdowns) and Rodney Smith (14 carries, 101 yards, two touchdowns). They also passed with an efficient quarterback in Brendyn Colella (15-for-19 for 185 yards, two touchdowns) and a dynamic receiver in DJ Pickett (three catches, 77 yards and a touchdown).
“They have a lot of weapons on the ground, and if you don’t get them on the first chance they can really hurt you,” Cypress Creek coach Michael Johnson said. “But if you go with a (bigger emphasis on the defensive line), then they can go to a bunch of weapons at receiver and put your secondary in a bind. They are very dangerous at all times.”
Through the first half, however, it appeared Cypress Creek (8-1, 2-1) might collect enough defensive stops while being effective enough itself on offense to pull out the victory.
At the half, the Coyotes not only led 28-21, they had gained more than 300 yards of offense. That included 236 rushing, largely behind Malachi Askin, who finished the first two quarters with 18 carries for 100 yards.
Cypress Creek even got the ball to start the second half, but that’s when the Bulldogs ignited all their fuses.
“I challenged our guys at halftime to go right out there and get a three-and-out and then come right back and follow that with a score,” Zephyrhills coach Nick Carroll said. “And that’s what they did, and I’m really proud of the way we responded.”
The most devastating plays?
Those arguably came when Cypress Creek fumbled at the Zephyrhills 10-yard line with 10:22 on the third-quarter clock and Lennon followed with a 90-yard touchdown run on the next play. In a matter of seconds, the Bulldogs had a 49-28 lead instead of possibly leading by just seven points.
With less than 30 seconds remaining in the game, Zephyrhills threw a final touchdown pass, which caused more than a few Cypress Creek fans to groan.
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Carroll said he was just trying to give another player a chance to catch a pass.
Johnson said he wouldn’t have done the same thing himself, but he didn’t hold the play against the Bulldogs.
“You can get mad and get all upset about it, but at the end of the day it’s football and you have to stop it,” Johnson said. “If you can’t stop them, then you should score 100. That’s how I feel. I don’t hold any grudges or anything. It’s football.”