ZEPHYRHILLS — Entering his fifth season as the head coach at his alma mater, Reggie Roberts has had a slew of talented athletes wear an orange-and-black uniform.
One of Pasco County’s best players, Jaylen Pickett, has Roberts excited for the season — and it’s easy to see why.
After a sophomore season in which he led Zephyrhills in catches and receiving yards, Pickett gained county-wide attention by leading the Bulldogs in rushing yards (808) and touchdowns (12) last season.
As the clear focal point of the Bulldogs’ attack in 2014, the senior is primed for another productive season.
“Jaylen has a great attitude and he has grown a lot mentally, physically and athletically, “ Roberts said. “He’s my leader and he is super confident in that role. I think he is under-recruited, but that will change as the season goes on.”
Now another year older and wiser, the dynamic playmaker is ready to take Zephyrhills to the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
“I’ve played varsity for four years and now it’s my turn to lead the group,” said Pickett, who is drawing interest from UMass, Eastern Michigan, South Dakota State, Presbyterian and Youngstown State. “My dad (former Bulldog great Damien Pickett) and uncle (13-year NFL veteran and former Bulldog Ryan Pickett) have been telling me what they did, and what I should be doing, as far as being a leader and setting a good example.
“My only goals are to make the playoffs and to beat Pasco,” Pickett added. “We’re a lot deeper than in the past, so guys won’t have to play both ways as much. We’ve got a bunch of athletes and everyone got better over the summer. Our team chemistry is great and I feel we’re just as good as last year, if not better.”
Jaylen Pickett’s numbers from last season (808 yards rushing, 12 rushing touchdowns, and a 6.85 average) might be tough to replicate especially since Zephyrhills lost four of its five starting offensive linemen to graduation. Dual-threat quarterback Ty Tanner looks to improve on his 106 QB rating and seven TD passes in limited action under center.
It starts up front with Lorine Parker. The senior had six sacks last year, which leads all returning players in 5A-District 6, despite getting injured midway through the season and playing the final month at less than 100 percent. Linebacker Kevin Lee is the vocal leader, setting the tempo for a unit that has gotten visibly stronger.
Despite finishing with winning records the past three seasons (20-10 in that span), the Bulldogs are seeking their first playoff appearance under coacg Reggie Roberts. In order to reach the postseason, Zephyrhills must overcome a tough 5A-6 that includes Bushnell South Sumter (currently on a 23-game regular season winning streak) and 9-Mile war rival Pasco. Impressive athletes at skill positions should help keep Zephyrhills in most games.
♦ About The Bulldogs
Stadium: Bulldog Stadium, 6335 12th St., Zephyrhills
Class-District: 5A-6 (with Brooksville Central, Brooksville Hernando, Brooksville Nature Coast, Pasco, Bushnell South Sumter and Weeki Wachee)
Coach: Reggie Roberts (21-19, fifth season)
Last season: 7-3
Aug. 29: Wesley Chapel
Sept. 5: Gulf
Sept. 12: at Mitchell
Sept. 19: Bushnell South Sumter
Sept. 26: at Weeki Wachee
Oct. 10: Brooksville Nature Coast
Oct. 17: Brooksville Central
Oct. 24: at Brooksville Hernando
Oct. 31: at Pasco
Nov. 7: at Sunlake