Zephyrhills High School – 1998-1999


Highlights of 1998-1999

Top of the Class, St. Petersburg Times

The following students from Zephyrhills High School were named Commended Students in the 1999 Merit Scholarship Program: Nikolas Demosthenous, Margaret McCleland and Rusty Wagner. Each placed among the top 5 percent of more than 1-million who entered the program by taking the PSAT.

Top of the Class, St. Petersburg Times, June 16, 1999

The Withlacoochee River Electric Educational Foundation has awarded 87 scholarships to high school seniors in Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties. The following east and central Pasco students were named winners:

Land O’ Lakes High: Rachell Fenstamaker, Vanessa Jacko, Marjoree Kurtright, Melissa Pflugh, Michelle Roberts, and Charlyn Vazquez. Pasco High: Michael Clark, Elicia Cefalo-Cox, John Grant, Kristine Jensen, Weylin Riley, and Michael Schofield. Zephyrhills High: Kristen Fields, James Hoyle, Jose Perez, Christopher Poe, Allison Powell, Angela Walters.

Special Recognition, Bulldog Beacon Newsletter of Zephyrhills High School, Fall Edition, 1998

Chamber of Commerce “Citizen of the Month”

Mamie Wise was named Citizen of the Month for August 1998 and Heather Avinger for September 1998.

Commended Students—1999 Merit Program

Nikolas Demonthenous, Margaret McCleland and Rusty Wagner have been named Commended Students in the 1999 National Merit Scholarship Program. A Letter of Commendation from the school and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation which conducts the program will be presented by the principal of these scholastically talented seniors.

Congratulations to recently elected freshman class officers: Richard Kazbour, President; Cynthia Griffin, Vice President; Shenna Rosensweig, Secretary; and Ashley Parsons, Treasurer.

Overflow Crowd Has Cheers for Zephyrhills Series by Chase Squires, St. Petersburg Times, June 6, 1999, Section: Pasco Times

 With an eye to the future and a wistful glance at the past, the 303 members of Zephyrhills High School’s graduating class hugged, cried and cheered their way through a rollicking commencement ceremony Friday. Friends, family and schoolmates overflowed the gymnasium, standing in the aisles, packing shoulder to shoulder in the bleachers and finally cramming into a commons area outside the gym to watch on video monitors. The crowd, estimated at well over 4,000, was likely the largest ever to attend graduation, a school spokesman said.

Preparing to take their place in the world, graduating seniors urged classmates to tackle every challenge and strive for every goal, but also to remember friends and family and a hometown in Pasco County.

In separate addresses, co-salutatorians Laurie Buccinna and Teresa Norris looked back on their voyages through childhood and grade school and looked forward to the changes ahead.

“Our lives, up until now, have been dictated by our parents and society,” Buccinna said. “As we leave Zephyrhills High School this evening, we leave behind the security we have become accustomed to.”

Norris looked to the future. “Adjusting is a part of learning and growth,” she said. “Only you can limit how far you will go. . . . Aim for the stars.”

Valedictorian Thomas Renc predicted big things.

“Who’s to say a future president or the next Bill Gates isn’t sitting here in this building?” he asked. “Nobody is.”

Senior Allison Powell brought some parents to tears, and perhaps a few fellow graduates, with her guitar rendition of the popular song I Will Remember You, followed by classmate Janda Prescott’s personal take on the bittersweet evening, a song called Remember she co-wrote with her older brother.

“I was trying to think of an appropriate song to sing, but I couldn’t find anything to express totally how I felt, something to sum up high school,” Prescott said before the ceremony. “You know how sometimes, when you hear a song it makes you really remember something? That’s what I was looking for.” The haunting refrain echoed through the gym: “I remember, walking down the hallways. I remember, dancing at the parties. I remember how it felt, on our last day at school. And all the dreams that we shared, I remember them, too.”

The class also heard words of inspiration from graduates John Newcombe and Nikolas Demosthenous and an address from class President Amanda Linville, who urged her classmates to “Be happy, be successful and embrace a positive attitude.”

For nearly 40 minutes, graduates were called up to the stage to shake hands with principal James Davis and accept a diploma. Parents and friends shouted congratulations. They whistled and clapped. Someone shouted for Jessica. Someone waved a sign proclaiming herself “Mindy’s Mom.” Someone honked an air horn.

Finally, at the end of the alphabet, Chip Matthew Zeller crossed the stage and turned his tassel to mark the transition. And he pumped his fist in the air for the class of 1999.

Excellence In Academics Series, St. Petersburg Times, June 9, 1999, Section: Pasco Times

 The following students were honored at the second annual Tampa Tribune/Outback Steakhouse Excellence in Academics Award Banquet on May 18 at Saint Leo College: Nicole Klesmit from Gulf High School was named winner of the Lori Szmytkowski Memorial Scholarship.  Michelle Brennan of Ridgewood High School and Barry Miller of River Ridge High School were named winners of the Marlow Allied Health Scholarship. Jaime Fimiani of Hudson High School was named winner of the Tampa Tribune Scholar Athlete Award.

Malissa Strozewski of Zephyrhills High School was named winner of the Dr. H.T. Lykes Memorial Scholarship.

Pride Awards went to: Paul Pollack (Gulf High), Susan Yacht (Ridgewood High), Javier Lopez-Molina (River Ridge High), Anne Karpay (Land O’ Lakes High), and Amanda Kennedy (Gulf High).

Outstanding Student Awards went to: Overall Winner: Bryan Hinmon (River Ridge High), Amanda Kennedy (Gulf High), Thomas Caron (Hudson High), Heidi Taylor (Ridgewood High); Matthew Winter (Zephyrhills High), Alvin Jones (Land O’ Lakes High), Norman Graham Jr. (Pasco High).

National Merit Scholar Awards went to: Finalists: Amanda Kennedy (Gulf High); Paul Pollack (Gulf High), Kai Bernal (Land O’ Lakes High), Nicole Udovich (River Ridge High). Commended: Ryan Martin (Gulf High), Crystal Jones (Hudson High), Daniel Brooks (Land O’ Lakes High), Jamie Mandell (Land O’ Lakes High), Don Poyssick (Land O’ Lakes High), Andrew Ford (Ridgewood High), Yan Yan Ho (Ridgewood High), Jason Burkett (Ridgewood High), Susan Yacht (Ridgewood High), Daniel Strand (River Ridge High), Heather Solberg (River Ridge High), Javier Lopez-Molina (River Ridge High), Jennifer Clayton (River Ridge High), John Wagner (Zephyrhills High), Margaret McCleland (Zephyrhills High), Nicholas Demosthenous (Zephyrhills High).

Salutatorian Awards: Amanda Kennedy (Gulf High), Kingsely Lau (Hudson High), Kai Bernal (Land O’ Lakes High), Lauren Daley (Pasco High), Stephanie Vratsolis (Ridgewood High), Nicole Udovich (River Ridge High), Lauri Buccinna (Zephyrhills High), Teresa Norris (Zephyrhills High).

Valedictorian Awards: Paul Pollack (Gulf High), Thomas Caron (Hudson High), Crystal Jones (Hudson High), Anne Karpay (Land O’ Lakes High), Justin Sevier (Ridgewood High), Javier Lopez-Molina (River Ridge High), Valerie Futch (Pasco High), Kyle Jory (Pasco High), Thomas Renc (Zephyrhills High).

Top of the Class, St. Petersburg Times, May 5, 1999

Zephyrhills High School students, Michael Pittman and Sara Morphew, have been named as this year’s Boys and Girls State delegates. Michael and Sara, who were selected for exhibiting outstanding citizenship and community involvement, will represent their school at a comprehensive one-week course in state and local government in Tallahassee. Michael was also named student of the month at Zephyrhills High School. Food and nutrition assistant Darlene Whipper was selected as SRP of the Month. Biology instructor Don Woods was honored as teacher of the month.

The following students on the Zephyrhills High School Mock Trial Team were named commended students for their dedication during the past five months: Sumico Austin, Jackie Butler, June Dawson, Matt McLaughlin, Josh Proctor, Princess Roshell, Lakia Stewart and Danny Wenhold. Amanda Linville, Maggie McCleland and Kattie McCleland were given Top Dog referrals for hosting Interact Exchange Students from London and Ontario during the school year.

Top of the Class, St. Petersburg Times, March 9, 1999

More than 150 pieces were submitted countywide for the Art of Recycling Competition held at the Pasco County Government Center. Of those, 60 were chosen for display. Robin Baldwin and Evan Lewis from Zephyrhills High School earned $100 for their submissions. Other students with artwork on display are: Tim Burkowski, Jason Clarke, Linsey Conner, Jesse La Cario, Chris Palmer, Jimmy Ramey, Janine Soto, Lauren Stevens and Allison Taylor.

Top Dog recipients from Zephyrhills High are: Aaron Camancho, Trevor First, Katie McCleland, Michael Nelson and Carolyn Young. Each of these students was recognized for exhibiting outstanding citizenship and leadership at their school. Awards in the VFW Voice of Democracy Freedom Essay Contest: First: Mamie Wise, Second: Nikolas Demosthenous, Third: Dean Collura.

Top of the Class, St. Petersburg Times, February 9, 1999

Jennifer Cracchiolo was selected as the Student of the Month for January at Zephyrhills High School in recognition of her efforts with the Interact Club’s talent show. Mrs. Judy Williams was chosen as the School Related Person of the Month. Business teacher Mrs. Janice MacFerran was selected as the Teacher of the Month. Matt Winter and Rachel Winter were commended students at Zephyrhills High School by social studies teacher Robert Hatfield for donating a recent Sunday to perform at a Hospice house fund-raiser. Other Top Dog recognitions for outstanding citizenship went to: Joseph Baxter, Ramon Cistron, Jessica Crawford, Matt Sandretzky, Crystal Serrano and Christina Scott.

Top of the Class, St. Petersburg Times, January 13, 1999

Mamie Wise, of Zephyrhills High School earned second place in the VFW District 12 Voice of Democracy contest Dec. 5 in Brandon. Students earning Honorable Mentions were Becky Lane of Pasco High School and Stephanie M. Maya of Grace Christian School.

by Steve Lee, March 12, 1999, Section: Sports

Tracy Negoshian flirted with disaster by landing in the bunker five times; poor timing and poor shooting against a player she had never beaten. But the Zephyrhills junior came out of the sand clean with just one stroke each time Thursday to defeat Gulf’s Lindsey Murvine for the first time in her high school career. Murvine had won the five previous meetings. Negoshian edged Murvine 39-40 at Fox Hollow and two Bulldogs recorded career-low scores for a 195-227 win over the Bucs. That kept Zephyrhills (4-0) unbeaten.

“I didn’t deserve to win it,” said Murvine, who had a two-stroke lead before dropping back by a stroke after an 8 on the sixth hole. “That’s what killed me.”

“She deserved it. She’s been wanting to beat me for two years. I give her credit.”

After Negoshian and Murvine double-bogeyed the eighth hole, Negoshian snapped the tie with a birdie on the ninth hole while Murvine settled for par 4.

“She drove the first green (for birdie), and it was like, ‘Oh, this is going to be a fun day,’ “Negoshian said of Murvine’s fast start.”I know she hits the ball further than me, and I was like, ‘I’ve just got to keep my head on.’ I had a fun day.”

Fun also was the operative word for McKenzie Milburn and Andra Howell, who both were all smiles after rounds of 47 and 48, respectively. Milburn had shot 48 and Howell 49 at Meadow Oaks in an earlier win over Hudson.

“I stayed calm today,” Milburn said.

Gulf’s Hope Kostogiannes tied a modest mark, shooting 68 in her third time ever on a golf course. She joined the Bucs last week and scored a 72 in her first match and a 68 the second time.

Gulf, which has had a full team for the past three matches thanks to the recent addition of Kostogiannes, fell to 1-5.

ZHS Student, Mamie Wise on National Team, Zephyrhills Sun, April 22, 1999

Mamie Wise, a 16 year old Sophomore at Zephyrhills High attended National 4-H Conference last week. Five Florida high school students were selected for this honor during the July 1998 4-H Congress at UF. As a National Conference Delegate, Mamie had the opportunity to apply for the National Technology Corps as well. She received word in September that she was one of 12 teens on the Tech Corps in the United States.

Art Show Winners, St. Petersburg Times, March 10, 1999, Section: Pasco Times

Here are the results of the Pasco County Art Exhibit Show:

Best of Show–Elementary school: Jonathan Williams with “Lawrence and Roge – The Clowns,” teacher, Becky Brown from West Zephyrhills Elementary.

Middle school: Felicias Morales with “Body of Work.” Art teacher: Kathleen Taylor from Weightman Middle. High school: Ryan Cannon with “Body of Work.” Art teacher: Clay Verge from Hudson High School. Primary 2-D: First place: Amy Bixby, St. Anthony School. Second place: Jessica Wright, Sand Pine Elementary. Primary 3-D: First place: Alexis Campisi, Seven Springs Elementary. Second place: Adriana Comap, Seven Springs Elementary. Elementary 3-D: First place: Tiffany Payne, R.B. Cox Elementary. Second place: Russell Young, San Antonio Elementary. Elementary 3-D: First place: Bryan Luft, Denham Oaks Elementary. Second place: Melany Wong, Denham Oaks Elementary.

Middle 2-D: First place: Jeremy Harkins, Weightman Middle. Second place: B.J. Henderson, Pine View Middle. Middle 3-D: First place: Erin O’Grady, Pine View Middle. Second place: Elizabeth Vanbroekhoven, Pine View Middle. High school 2-D: First place: Kristen Orteo, Hudson High. Second place: Todd Black, Zephyrhills High. High school 3-D: First place: Alycia Abrams, Hudson High. Second place: Tina Turner, Zephyrhills High.


Top of the Class, St. Petersburg Times, April 28, 1999, Section: Pasco Times

Zephyrhills High School students recently participated in the District Level FBLA competition in Hernando County. Maegan Buckman placed fifth in Principles and Procedures. Jamie Czeremcha placed fifth in Introduction to Business. Lori Delgado placed second in Job Interview. Cindy Griffin placed third in Principles and Procedures. Amanda Lindner, fifth in Business Communications. Corrinne Rakocy, fifth in Business Calculations. Mamie Wise third in Public Speaking. Michael Pittman and Lori Delgado went on to the state competition in Orlando.

Top of the Class, St. Petersburg Times, June 9, 1999

Ten student ambassadors from Pasco County attended the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership seminar held in Orlando. Students from east and central Pasco attending were: Amber Sorensen, Land O’ Lakes High; Kelli Pugh, Pasco High; Mamie Wise, Zephyrhills High. Lea Piou of Land O’ Lakes High served as a counselor.

Meet Pasco’s Top Graduates, St. Petersburg Times, May 26, 1999, Section: Pasco Times

St. Petersburg Times

Thomas George Renc, this year’s valedictorian at Zephyrhills High School, is inspired by Ghandi and Mother Teresa. His favorite quote is, “Know thyself.”

Top of the Class, St Petersburg Times, August 26, 1998

The following students have been elected officers of Zephyrhills High School Future Business Leaders of America: president: Robin Gollhardt; vice president: Heidi Hefflelfinger; secretary: Lori Delgado; treasurer: Tye Rogers; reporter: Jamie Czermcha; historian: Wendi Randall.

Math Team members at Zephyrhills High School are: calculus team: Donnie Cortright, Brian Fettig and Rusty Wagner; pre-calculus: Laurie Buccinna, Teresa Norris and Tom Renc; geometry: Michael Glenn, Mike Jones, Mamie Wise and Sarah Henning; algebra II: Rob Alderman, Jerry Mitchell and Jessica Reinagle.

St. Petersburg Times, October 14, 1998

Top Dogs: The following students were named Top Dog Recipients for their assistance during Hurricane Georges: Chad Andrus, Karen Cornelius, Bruce Davis, Robyn Gollhardt, Amanda Linville, Nick Linville, Steven Mann, Amber Moore, Ashley Moore, Mike Moore, Mindy Schultz, Noah Schultz, Malissa Strowzewski, Tiffany Tibbetts, Darren Watts, Jeb Burch, Tristan Meyerink and Caitlin Mica were commended as well for exhibiting outstanding citizenship.

Zephyrhills Football Preview-98, St. Petersburg Times, by Jamal Thalji, September 3, 1998

Bulldogs coach Tom Fisher knows the questions are coming:

How do you replace All-World defensive tackle Ryan Pickett?

How do you replace Pickett, Mitch Theel, Adam Palladino and David Collins from the offensive line?

How do you replace receiving leader Demetrius “Boo Boo” McKay and Teon Black?

For that matter, how do you replace a secondary without McKay, Black and Nick Carroll?

Fisher has heard all those questions and more as the Bulldogs prepare for a campaign without the most talented football class in school history. They led the Bulldogs to a Sunshine Athletic Conference title and a school-record 10 wins in a season that ended in the second-round of the state playoffs.

And then unexpectedly over the summer came this question:

How do you replace quarterback Jaimie Sullivan?

After leading the county in passing last year, Sullivan transferred to rival Pasco, where he is the backup quarterback and starting free safety.

Fisher’s answer to all of the above: So what? “You can’t worry about what you lose for one reason or another,” Fisher said. 

“You’ve got to go with what you’ve got.”

In that simple answer lays the secret of Fisher’s 11-year reign at Zephyrhills: The talent is always there, his challenge is to unearth it, get it into camp, coach it, drill it and then let it loose on Friday nights.

This season will be no different. And stop worrying about Sullivan, he said.

“The kids who played with (Sullivan) knew he put his stuff on like they did, they knew he was an exceptional athlete. There’s no replacing something like that. You’ve got to have everyone else pull together to avoid that void.”

The key to this Bulldogs’ season unquestionably lies with tailback Terry Allen, who rushed for 1,226 yards last season. 

Fullback Terry Hurlburt is also a key part of the running attack. But the pair will be running behind an offensive line that only returns starter Jake Whiddon.

Allen has to keep the pressure off untested junior quarterback Brett Cimorelli, who Fisher said could have started for Zephyrhills last year.

“He handles himself well for his size,” Fisher said of his 6-foot- 4 quarterback. “He’s smart, his footwork is getting there, and he’s faster than last year.”

Cimorelli isn’t worried, either. Not only has he kept his nerves under control, he said, but he has also set a lofty goal for himself.  “All the great quarterbacks at Zephyrhills have thrown for 1,000- yards,” he said. “It’s something I’d like to do, too.”

Said Fisher: “He knows what he’s doing back there. As long as he gets support from the rest of the team, he should do all right. He just needs a game or two to get his feet wet.

Okay, so Zephyrhills has running backs and a quarterback. Tight end and defensive line are also solid but that’s it. 

Everywhere else, competition abounds for starting spots: offensive line, wide receivers, linebackers and the secondary. But turnout for camp this year was high, including several athletes who were trying out for the varsity for the first time.

Fisher isn’t alone in his assessment of the team. Allen said he isn’t worried, either.

“I think we’ll have a good season,” he said. “I’m pretty confident. We’ve got a lot of good people here; we’ve just got to put it all together.”

Scouting Report-The offense

Passing: Quarterback Brett Cimorelli is untested; so are most of his receivers. Cimorelli is more of a drop-back passer; Jamie Sullivan is a scrambler, and Cimorelli said Sullivan edged him out in 1997 on speed. Well, Cimorelli is faster now, too – 4.7 in the 40. He worked hard in the off-season and, at 6 feet 4, can see more of the field than his predecessor. “He’s capable of doing a lot,” Fisher said. Cousins Andrew and Justin Griffin could be big at receiver. Jarred Fiscarelli and Spence Jones are solid tight ends.

Rushing: Here’s a peek at Fisher’s playbook: Terry Allen; Terry Allen; Terry Allen. “He’s a natural,” Fisher said. “He’s a running back that can do it all.” Terry Hurlburt tends to run straight ahead, but the fullback is also a power runner. Steve Mathis backs them up.

Line: Jake Whiddon is the anchor at right tackle. Center Craig Merson has varsity experience. Chester Rathburn at left guard and Chris Palmer at right guard are in from the wrestling team, but only Rathburn has played varsity. At left tackle is Todd Black, filling Ryan Pickett’s old spot.

The defense

Line: Fisher called this unit “the most experienced part of the defense.” High praise indeed considering Pickett used to roam this area. Heading the Bulldogs’ 4-4 scheme is Fiscarelli at left end, Jones at left tackle, Merson at right guard and Joey Burke at right end. Fiscarelli is the best pass-rusher; Jones the best run-stopper.

Linebackers: The outside backers have experience, with Andrew Griffin on the left side and last year’s starter Hurlburt on the right. Newcomer Len Sones has been waiting for this chance, and he gets it as the starting right inside linebacker; Palmer joins him on the left. “These guys are head-hunters,” Fisher said.

Backs: As depleted as the offensive line. Allen is the free safety. When R.J. Hill heals that toe he dropped a 45-pound weight on, he’ll be the starting right corner. The rest of the bunch? Keep these names in mind: Philip Lake, Mike Moody, Geoff Castro and the Griffin cousins.

The staff-Head Coach: Fisher keeps winning at Zephyrhills, where he has compiled a 73-33 record in 11 seasons. His consistent, steady hand at the wheel is the reason this team is always competitive. But this season he faces his toughest challenge yet, replacing the most talented crop of players in 56 years of football at Zephyrhills. Oh, and arch-rival Pasco is loaded. The two teams are already jawing about their Sept. 11 meeting; Sullivan’s transfer only fuels the fire everyone denies exists.

Staff: Chris Bounnell, Gary Butler, Bruce Cimorelli, Troy Hofstatler, Matt McDermott, John McDougall.

Special teams

After Sullivan beat him out at quarterback last year, Cimorelli excelled as the team’s kicker and punter. Any standout on special teams, coach? “Hopefully, on kickoffs, you only need one person to put it in the end zone,” Fisher said. Uh-oh, that doesn’t sound good. “It’s too soon to see,” he added.

They Know the Drill, St. Petersburg Times, October 14, 1998

Zephyrhills High School Junior ROTC drill team members Jerry Mitchell IV, left, and Heather Avinger rehearse a routine Tuesday at the school. The 12-member team has its first competition Nov. 21 at the University of South Florida.

Bulldogs Best Brings Success, St. Petersburg Times, by Steve Lee, Section: Pasco Times, 1998

The Bulldogs still are basking in the glow of their first district title, won impressively last Thursday in a long-hoped-for upset of three-time defending champion Hudson.

So stoked was Zephyrhills after that victory that the Bulldogs trampled Citrus in Tuesday’s opening round of the state Class 4A playoffs, allowing the Hurricanes just four offensive points total in a two-game sweep that took just 30 minutes.

Strongwill, stemming from strong Christian beliefs, packaged with natural ability, has delivered Josh Borders a handful of record- breaking performances in his two seasons as a competitive swimmer.

“Josh will, ’cause Josh will,” Zephyrhills coach Shannon Mathews said of her top swimmer. “That’s why Josh is good. It’s all heart. There is some natural ability, but what separates that is heart.”

“I was brought up to have a heart and do the best in whatever I can,” Borders said. “I mainly swim for the Lord. He gave me the talent to do it. It says in the Bible to do everything to the fullest in his name.”

Whether it’s because of faith or talent, Borders’ name has appeared among the leading swimmers in Pasco County since Zephyrhills formed a team last year. As a junior, Borders qualified for the state meet in the 100 butterfly. This fall, the senior aims for a return trip to the state meet, only this time in the 50 freestyle.

“I want to go to states and compete to the best of my ability,” Borders said. “I really just want to go and be there with the cream of the crop.”

In last year’s state meet, Borders did not fare well among that crop, finishing in the lower echelon of the 40 swimmers in the 100 backstroke. But he was hardly disheartened by that performance.

“I really wasn’t expecting much last year,” said Borders, an honor roll student who often missed practices for tutoring sessions in pre- calculus. “It was just great to go.”

Borders switched to freestyle this year and thinks he might place among the top 10 at the state meet.

He appears to be on the right track. At Saturday’s Sunshine Athletic Conference meet, Borders set a conference mark in the 50 free (23.59) and was part of the record-setting 200 free relay race (1:42.16) that included teammates Danny Wardell, Austin Harley and Justin Innerbichler. Borders also won the 100 fly in a personal-best 1:00.05, though it wasn’t a SAC record.

As a youngster, Borders swam competitively in Temple Terrace. His family moved to Zephyrhills, and he did not swim for a couple of years. When the Bulldogs started their swim program last year, Borders was one of the first to come out for the team.

His goals for this season are to do well at districts, make state and perhaps earn a swimming scholarship. He also is shooting for a 22-second time in the 50 free and to break a minute in the 100 fly.

Borders said he thinks he has a shot at all of his goals, especially with stiffer competition in the post-season. His best races, he said, came against River Ridge, which won the boys and girls SAC titles.

Borders also liked going up against Ridgewood’s John Powell, a close friend, in the 50 free this year. In three meetings, Borders beat Powell twice.

Borders played football for Ricky Thomas, now the Pasco High coach, when he attended Weightman Middle School. He also ran track at Weightman and as a freshman and sophomore at Zephyrhills. But swimming eventually won out over football and track.

“I just got tired of running,” he said.

Borders cannot comprehend tiring of swimming, though.

“It’s like my vent,” he said. “It relaxes me.”

From Frying Pan to Fire for Bulldogs, St. Petersburg Times, by Jamal Thalji, November 5, 1998, Section: Pasco Times

The Bulldogs, though, are far from done. Or so they hope.

This team has set its sights on reaching the state final four. But to do so, the Class 4A, District 8 champions will have to survive perhaps the most brutal playoff bracket in the 4A playoffs, with the Nos. 1-, 2- and 3-ranked teams standing between the Bulldogs and the state championship.

After Wednesday’s practice, Zephyrhills coach Pat Moul assembled her squad and passed on this important instruction: 

Don’t worry about it.

“It’s just like any other team we’ve faced,” Moul said. “What they’ve done in the past doesn’t matter. What we’ve done in the past doesn’t matter. The past really doesn’t matter.

“You’ve just got to go play it one game at a time. You’ve just got to go after them. We’ve just got to play our game and hopefully take them out of their game.”

The first challenge comes Saturday, when the Bulldogs (25-8), ranked No. 6 in the state 4A poll, take on Orlando Bishop Moore (25- 5), ranked No. 3, at 2 p.m. at Jacksonville Bishop Kenny.

Then, barring a major upset in the form of Starke Bradford (17-16) somehow defeating Bishop Kenny (24-6) in the 4 p.m. match, the Bulldogs would have to take on Bishop Kenny, the No. 2-ranked team in 4A, in the 7 p.m. final.

And even if Zephyrhills can accomplish all this and reach the final four, barring another major upset, the Bulldogs would have to face the No. 1 team, Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons (29-1), in the Nov. 11 semifinals at Jenkins High School in Lakeland.

Bishop Moore coach Cindy Snow said she isn’t thrilled about the bracket either, nor is she happy to have to face Zephyrhills on Saturday.

“Personally, I think it’s a very tough bracket,” said Snow, the first-year Hornets coach. “I think it’s unfortunate how tough the bracket is, but now you’ve just got to win because you either see them now or you see them in state.”

Snow said her team is young, powered mostly by talented sophomores who started as freshmen last year – such as 5-foot-11 middle hitter Linsey Carter, 5-10 outside hitter Kirby Wallace and new addition Angie Boyd, a 5-7 junior setter.

“We’re just learning to play together,” Snow said. “That’s why a lot of our losses are in the early part of the season.”

After losing the 4A-8 title to Zephyrhills, Hudson coach Linda McQuade joked that after three years of having to climb over the state’s best teams every year in the playoffs, she would actually enjoy a playoff run as the 4A-8 runner-up.

“Every year it seems that all we play are private schools,” she said. “Now this year, maybe things will be a little easier for us.”

Moul acknowledged that her team is on an extremely difficult path through the playoffs to the final four. But then again, she added, it wouldn’t be the playoffs if it was supposed to be easy.

“I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think any game that any team plays right now is an easy game,” she said. “I don’t think there’s really any easy game.

“They’ve got to come out and play, and we’ve got to come out and play. That’s about all that I can tell my team.”

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