Football: For Bulldogs, success breeds success
When Reggie Roberts returned to his hometown and took over the Bulldogs football program in 2010, he was disappointed with the mindset and the attitude of his new team.
“That first year was tough,” said Roberts with a sigh. “We had a group of guys that didn't (collectively) have the hunger or desire to win. We had lost the taste for winning, and I knew I had to change the culture around here.”
After finishing 3-7 in 2010, Zephyrhills posted winning records the past two seasons, but also narrowly missed the playoffs in both. Despite that, the Bulldogs were able to play meaningful football games in November for the first time since winning the Class 3A-District 8 title in 2006.
“Now, I think the attitude in the hallways (at school) has changed, the attitude in the locker room has changed, and people are starting to take notice of Zephyrhills football again,” Roberts said. “Our kids have tasted success and want to experience more of it.”
The key to Zephryhills' recent success has been leadership, a concern for Roberts after losing Jarret Kelly.
“Jarret always did things the right way,'' Roberts said. “He would come early and stay late, setting a great example for the younger guys.”
Roberts said his coaching staff has been looking for Kelly's replacement in the locker room and may have found him: senior center Justin Shaffer.
“Justin has been very vocal and motivating, making sure that everyone is pulling their weight and keeping their focus,” Roberts said. “He's not afraid to take other players aside and respectfully tell them that they need to increase their effort. He understands what we're trying to build here.”
After going 13-7 the past two years, the Bulldogs know they won't be sneaking up on anybody this season. Even with a more competitive district (5A-6 with Pasco, Brooksville Hernando, Brooksville Central, Brooksville Nature Coast, Bushnell South Sumter and Weeki Wachee) on the horizon, confidence is high.
“Our goal is to win football games, to reach the playoffs, to win championships,” Roberts said. “We expect to do those things each and every year. The expectations that we place upon ourselves have always been higher than what the outside world thinks of us and we can achieve our goals if we continue to put in the work. We are a motivated bunch and that will show in the fall.”
Correspondent Kenny Sanders can be followed on Twitter @kasander5.