WESLEY CHAPEL - Enough already about the Zephyrhills High offense.
It's time to talk about the Bulldogs defense.
The unit rang up three interceptions - one returned for a score - two fumble recoveries, a turnover on downs and forced Wesley Chapel quarterback Greg Jenkins from the game during the Zephyrhills 24-17 victory at Wildcat Stadium.
'They did,' Bulldogs coach Tom Fisher said of the defense keeping his team in the game. 'Offensively we're struggling, but you got to keep going.'
Zephyrhills defensive back Tyler Smith set the tone of the game for the Bulldogs (3-1) defense when he stepped up against a scrambling Jenkins. On that second-and-6 play, the fourth of the Wesley Chapel (3-2) opening drive, Jenkins gained three yards and was trampled by Smith. The senior passer took the blow to the right shoulder of his throwing arm. Early diagnosis on the injury is a separated shoulder.
On the next play, Jenkins carried the ball to the Bulldogs' 47 and fumbled. That was his final play.
'You take one of the best athletes off the field and you're gonna have problems,' Wesley Chapel coach John Castelamare said. 'Our kids played well with back up quarterback C.J. West behind there. ... I'm proud of them. They played well. We made some mistakes with him. You can't give a team the ball like that.'
On Wesley Chapel's next drive, West guided the Wildcats to the first points of the game. The six-play drive ended with an 11-yard Hunter Joyer touchdown run with 6:14 left in the first quarter.
Wildcats defensive back Lionel Rayford picked off Bulldogs quarterback Tyler Guy and Wesley Chapel's offense scored again. This time Keenan Reynolds ran in from 2-yards out. Reynolds led all rushers with 107 yards on 18 carries.
The Bulldogs didn't score until its fourth possession when Louis Ferguson connected on a 27-yard field goal with 2:52 left in the second quarter.
On the following Wesley Chapel drive, Alex Sampson picked off an errant third-and-3 pass from West, returning it 58-yards for the score. That sliced into the Wesley Chapel momentum and deficit at 14-10 with 1:02 left in the first half.
'I look up and the ball is right in front of me,' Sampson said. 'I caught it and had to take it in.'
Wesley Chapel opened the third quarter recovering Zephyrhills' kickoff return, capitalizing with a 35-yard Juan Salguero field goal, increasing its lead, 17-10. The Bulldogs answered two possessions later with an 8-yard Alex Paniagua touchdown run. Wesley Chapel maintained the lead, 17-16, when the point after hold was fumbled.
Zephyrhills took its next possession 70-yards, capping it with a Guy 1-yard run on a fumbled center-to-quarterback exchange. The 2-point conversion run by Chris Henry (15 carries, 37 yards) gave the Bulldogs their first advantage and the eventual 24-17 victory
'We're just fortunate we came out with a win and even though we won,' Fisher said, 'we got to regroup and get better.'
Zephyrhills01068-24Wesley Chapel7730-17 W-H. Joyer 11 run (Salguero kick)
W-Reynolds 2 run (Salguero kick)
Z-Ferguson 27 FG
Z-Sampson 58 interception return (Ferguson kick )
W-Salguero 35 FG
Z-Paniagua 8 run (kick failed)
W-Guy 1 run (Henry run)
TEAM STATISTICS ZephWCFirst downs 814Rushing 31-8735-214Passing 7-11-1128-19-111Total yards 189325Interceptions by 31Sacks by 20Fumbles-lost 6-12-2Penalties-yards 4-305-32