Football preview: No. 17 Zephyrhills


At a glance

Coach: Nick Carroll, sixth season

Class: 5A, District 9

Last season: 8-3, lost in region semifinals

Key players: OT/DT Gabe Coveny, Jr.; OLB Larence Graham, Jr.; WR/FS Tymar McKever, Sr.; OT/DE Kamil Mehrab, Sr.; DE/SB Maguire Neal, Sr.; QB/K Jaxson Rivera, Sr.; RB/SS Nick Sheldon, Sr.; MLB/TE Theotis Smith, Sr.; RB/CB Jaylin Thomas, Sr.; 


Aug. 27 at Lakeland Kathleen, 7:30

Sept. 3 vs. Hernando, 7:30

Sept. 10 at Fivay, 7:30

Sept. 17 at Wesley Chapel, 7:30

Sept. 24 Bye

Oct. 1 vs. Weeki Wachee, 7:30

Oct. 8 vs. Wiregrass Ranch, 7:30

Oct. 15 at Cypress Creek, 7:30

Oct. 22 at Nature Coast, 7:30

Oct. 29 vs. Hudson, 7:30

Nov. 5 vs. Pasco, 7:30


After starting 0-2 last season, the Bulldogs won eight straight before falling to Orlando Jones in the region semifinals. The win streak was due in large part to a defense that posted six shutouts. That unit has eight returning starters, including the top three leading tacklers — Theotis Smith, Nick Sheldon and Maguire Neal. It’s not just ball carriers that Neal can bring down. He also has a knack for getting after the quarterback. Last year, the Charlotte commit recorded 13 sacks and has 25 in the past two seasons.  On offense, Jaxson Rivera remains at quarterback. He took over the starting job after Zephyrhills’ 0-2 start and threw for 724 yards and 11 touchdowns. Jaylin Thomas, who rushed for 630 yards and scored 11 touchdowns on the ground last season, should have an even bigger role in the backfield with the graduation of Zyre Roundtree and Tre Gallimore.