Even though they had a first-year Head Coach in Nick Carroll, the Zephyrhills Bulldogs did not miss a beat in 2016.
The Bulldogs grabbed a district runner-up spot and an 8-3 record for the third consecutive season, in both regards. Carroll replaced Reggie Roberts as play-caller, and Zephyrhills suffer at all.
After a 43-8 loss suffered at the hands of Wiregrass Ranch in Week One, the Bulldogs went on a five-game tear before ultimately losing out on a district championship in a 31-14 loss to River Ridge. Three wins to end the season, including a win against rival Pasco set up Z-Hills for a date with Nature Coast Tech in the first playoff round. They would fall 35-21.
Nonetheless, the 46-0 drubbing of Pasco was the first shutout since Pasco’s 45-0 win in 2011. The Pirates still lead the ‘9 Mile War’ all-time series, 40-19.
For Zephyrhills ATH Devondric ‘D2’ Miller, it was the first time he was on the winning side of the 9 Mile War.
Miller transferred to Zephyrhills this past offseason, one of two major transfers out of Pasco (the other being now-Tampa Bay Tech QB Mike Penix Jr.), that partially resulted in Pasco’s 1-9 season.
“It felt great to be on the winning side of it. There was a lot of back and forth on social media, we put it all to rest on the field, and we proved we were the better team,” Miller said.
The rising senior took the opportunity and ran with it, starting for the Bulldogs in his first season with the team.
“We really worked well as a team this season, we worked hard in practice, worked hard in games, worked hard in the weight room,” Miller said. “I think the one thing we could’ve done better was to work harder in the film room – it really set our season apart. Overall, we just did our thing during the season and played good football.”
The athlete has excellent speed with a good ability to break up passes on a consistent basis. He’s a great option on the outside on passing downs. Miller finished with eight passes defended last season. He’ll come out of nowhere to chase guys down and make touchdown saving tackles, like he did several times last season.
His district, Class 5A-District 8 ended up being an nail-biter, going down to the final week of district play for things to be decided. Wesley Chapel surprised many with a big start, but a 28-20 Zephyrhills win in Week Nine put Chapel on the outside, needing a win against River Ridge to force a tiebreaker.
“Chapel being better ended up making a huge difference in our district. There was this play that Coach Carroll had put in the locker room that we had looked at the whole week before the game. We were ready for them. Personally, I kind of expected them to be better than they were when we played them, I almost felt they didn’t live up to the hype they had been given,” Miller said.
The early exit, courtesy of NCT, may not happen again with the core of Zephyrhills returning in 2017. Miller, UTL Cartrell Strong, WR Tre’Pavis Mobley, QB Charles Harrison, DT Terrance Skinner, and RB Elijah Thomas are all returning for another year, giving the Bulldogs a dangerous lineup on both sides of the ball. That group could certainly be what gets Z-Hills over the hump and in line for a district championship.
“There’s a really good possibility we can have a deep run in the playoffs next season. Most of us are rising seniors, giving us lots of experience. We’re going to leave it all on the field.”
Beating Miller’s old school is also a necessity, along with Carroll.
“Coach and I really clicked at the first day in the weight room, we talked about beating Pasco, we focused on beating Pasco, and we really just had that connection, that common goal, of beating Pasco all the time,” Miller said.
In his senior season, it’s all about creating turnovers for his team. Miller wants to turn those deflected passes into interceptions and chances to score points on the other side of the ball. “I really could’ve done more this year,” Miller said. “My goal for next season is to have at least six interceptions.”
He intercepted not a single pass in 2016. That will change this upcoming season.
His drive to best his former school will not. Miller’s quest to help his team go for a deep run in the playoffs will not change either.
That’s something for Carroll to be proud about.