Zephyrhills High School – 2007-2008


Highlights of 2007-2008

Geoff Parker

2008: Banner year for Bulldogs, St. Petersburg Times, June 16, 2008

by Joey Knight

Though we’re not even halfway through the calendar year, it’s already safe to surmise 2008 likely will go down as the proudest in Zephyrhills High sports history. If only for the feats of some of its most famous alumni.

The latest ZHS graduate to reach national sports prominence: ex-Bulldogs ace Geoff Parker (Class of ’07), a freshman on the FSU baseball team currently playing in a College World Series elimination game in Omaha, Neb. Parker (6-2, 4.42 ERA) hasn’t appeared in the Series, but started the Super Regional title game, working the first three innings of an 11-4 win against No. 21 Wichita State.

He’s only the latest ‘Dog to have his day on the national stage.

In January, Bulldogs alum Ryan Pickett (Class of ’98) registered three tackles for Green Bay in its 23-20 overtime loss to the New York Giants in the NFC title game. The following month, fledgling NASCAR star David Reutimann (Class of ’88) placed 18th at the Daytona 500. A few weeks later, another ex-Bulldogs ace, David Eiland (Class of ’84), formally debuted as New York Yankees pitching coach.

Zephyrhills Fisher Retires after 20 Seasons-124 wins, Tampa Tribune, December 4, 2008

by Bart O’Connell

Tom Fisher, who transformed the Zephyrhills High football program into one of the best in Pasco County over 20 seasons as head coach, stepped down Monday at the Bulldogs’ season-ending banquet, bringing to an end the most successful football era in school history.

The 56-year old Fisher, who has coached high school football for 32 of the last 34 years, did not go into specifics as to why he is ready to walk away from the program he guided to eight playoff appearances and a 124-84 record since 1989. He plans to continue teaching physical education at the school, as he has done for the last 26 years.

“There are several reasons – some good and some bad,” he said. “I just want to concentrate on some other things … things I’ve never had time to do while I was coaching. I want this decision to be seen as a positive thing.

“He’s always been there and it’s going to be difficult to think about Zephyrhills football without him leading it,” said Pasco coach Tom McHugh.

When asked if he would ever consider a return to coaching, Fisher said, “You never know.”

Overcoming the Odds

Fisher was known for his no-nonsense demeanor on and off the field, rugged practice style and aggressive defenses. He took traditionally small groups of players (often 35 or less on the varsity roster) and from the beginning of his tenure, showed an uncanny ability to maximize their talent.

It was a compliment he received year after year from his peers and adversaries in coaching.

He sent players on athletic scholarships to Florida’s “Big Three” football schools, Florida (Bryan Thomas), Florida State (Brett Cimorelli) and Miami (Booker Pickett). But he was equally proud of those he sent to Yale (Tommy McCloud), Furman (Sederrik Cunningham) and numerous Division II and III schools.

The most successful player under Fisher was linebacker and defensive lineman Ryan Pickett. Pickett started as a freshman at Ohio State, left after his junior season to play professionally and was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. He now is in his eighth professional season, currently a defensive tackle for the Green Bay Packers. His jersey number (79) was retired on homecoming at Bulldog Stadium this year, making Pickett the first player ever to have a number retired at the school.

“I’ve just been fortunate enough to have good kids and good talent, so I wouldn’t want to single anyone out or leave anyone out,” Fisher said. “And my assistant coaches over the years have been very, very instrumental. It’s not me. It’s the program.”

In April, 1989, Fisher was picked to replace Barry Gardner at Zephyrhills.

His teams made the playoffs in 1993, 1995 (a 10-0 regular season), 2001, 2002, 2005 and 2006.

ZHS Grad, Marcus Mathes Killed in Iraq War

Marcus MathesZephyrhills High School graduate Marcus Mathes was killed in Iraq in 2008. Mathes, 26, a native of Zephyrhills, Florida, joined the Army in March 2005.

He completed basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and advanced individual training at Fort Bliss, Texas, before being assigned to Fort Polk in July 2005.

Mathes’ awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, NATO Medal and the Combat Action Badge.

ZHS Graduation 2008

Graduation is scheduled June 5th at the Lakeland Civic Center. This will be the first time since the 1950s when a graduation takes place off school campus. Valedictorian is Luke Aaron Thomas and Salutatorian is Kristen “Abbi” Chaffin. Senior notables are: Best Smile: Tyler Shea & Samantha Shoulder; Thrill Seekers: Jack Patterson & Alyssa Stewart; Most Likely to Become President: Robbie Kunkle & Kaylee Willis; Most Talented: Ben Cotrell & Alicia Hoyle; Most Athletic: Chris Henry & Jessica Davis; Most Likely to Succeed: Luke Thomas & Kristen Arnold; Most Likely to Lend a Helping Hand: Zeke Freirmuth & Stephanie Bahr; School Spirit: Alicia O’Donnell & Nick Burgess; Class Clown: Andy Patrias & Haven Mills; Most Likely to Be Famous: Jason Badia & Anya Brunner; Outspoken: Ben Stevens & Christina Wright; Best All Around: Ryan Alderman & Kristie Crowe; Best Friends: Abbie Chaffin & Carol Cuthbertson: Class Couple Miranda Burns & Myranda Vanderlyke.

Reutimann, VanHorn & Nephew Selected For 2008 Hall Of Fame Inductions

Special Awards To Marotta, Burgess, Myers, Langenstein, Reakes & Toal

Weedsport, NY – March 28, 2008 – By Tom Skibinski, DIRTcar Racing NorthEast PR Director

Popular Floridian Wayne Reutimann, was inducted into the Northeast Modified Hall of Fame & Classic Car Museum on Memorial Day Weekend 2008. This driving great add his name to a growing list of Modified legends that was started in 1992 when the Hall of Fame was officially christened on the Cayuga County Fairgrounds in Weedsport, New York.

The 2008 Induction Ceremonies took place Sunday, May 25 at 2 p.m. in the NE Hall of Fame & Classic Car Museum. The evening race program at Cayuga County Fair Speedway was highlighted by the Hall of Fame 76, the third scheduled points event in the Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series for Big-Block Modifieds.

Still active today racing down in the Sunshine State as well as following the budding career of his son Wayne Jr., Reutimann, 63, followed in his older Buzzie’s tire tracks to carve his own niche in the Northeast Modified record book. Although competing up north for a just a handful of seasons, the Zephyrhills, Florida pilot made his mark at nearly every track he visited, including Orange County Fair Speedway, Nazareth Raceway, East Windsor Speedway and the since razed Reading Fairgrounds. He steered the beautiful Blair #3 and renowned Ritter & Kleintop #666 Big-Blocks, in between capturing the prestigious Eastern States 200 Championship and track points title at Orange County in 1975 aboard Richard Marinelli’s potent no. M1 machine.

A Life Fulfilled, Tampa Tribune, June 1, 2008, by Joey Johnston

Jeanine Boyd ByersOnce, she was a basketball star, the all-around leading scorer in her county (Pasco), a player so smooth and efficient that she earned a nickname-“The Dream.” Once she could have followed the bouncing ball into college prominence. Once, plenty of people were convinced about her future.

Jeanine Boyd Byers made an unusual decision. In a society where sports performance often serves as currency, she gave up competitive athletics to concentrate on academics. Twenty years ago, with a striking 6 foot-3 presence, she nervously stood at a podium in the Zephyrhills High School gymnasium delivering her valedictory address. She spoke about finding your passion, exploring options. It was a pep talk to the class of 1988.

Twenty years later, Myers, 37, has lived that message. But even while graduating into a world of possibilities, could she have imagined all of this? She is married with three children. She’s a college mathematics professor who is pursuing her doctorate. She’s a professional musician. Four years ago, she embarked on a humanitarian mission to a tiny South African village, experiencing the AIDS epidemic first-hand, witnessing a steady stream of funerals, forever altering her perspective.

Her older brother, who had struggled with a debilitating disease for nearly 15 years, was withering near death last summer. Myers gave him new life by donating one of her kidneys. When asked, she didn’t hesitate.

Now David Boyd is healthy, running three miles each morning, promoted to a new job, relishing every moment.

“How can winning a basketball game compare to that?” Myers said. “One of the things I remember from basketball was pushing through the fatigue, pushing through the pain. Don’t let your feelings dictate your actions. You’ve got to be committed. You do what you have to do.

“Life is sort of like that. Life just happens. On your graduation night, you’re filled with all these hopes and dreams. You’re not exactly sure what’s ahead, but it’s exciting. Then off you go.”

Finding Her Voice: Off you go. In a way, Myers was relieved. She wasn’t comfortable being a focal point. When you are a sophomore starter on the best team in Zephyrhills history, when you score 1,755 career points, when you are the tallest girl in school, it’s difficult to go unnoticed.

“Basketball is not her whole life, not should it be,” Zephyrhills coach Ernie Pittman said at the time. “Jeanine has already learned how to succeed. Now she’ll try it at a different place, at a different level.”

Slowly, Myers found her voice-through her drive in the classroom. She had a 3.85 grade-point average at Baylor University, finishing 72nd in a class of 2,000 seniors. Eventually it wasn’t so scary to stand before an audience, not in a classroom when she was explaining math theory to her students.

Through music. She plays the piano and organ, often accompanying choirs on national tours. Through her family, she met Matt Myers during a church camp trip to North Carolina while they were both graduate students at Clemson University. They were married 15 years ago, and she followed him throughout the South, for his educational advancement and career moves. For a time, she was a stay-at-home mother, raising Rachel (12), Ben (10) and Anna (7).

“Jeanine is obviously a talented person, whether it’s basketball, music or teaching,” said Matt Myers, associate professor of mathematics at the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Arkansas, where the family has lived since 2002. But primarily she is someone who does things for others. She will deny herself things to help her friends and family.

Life’s True Meaning: Myers grew up with four older brothers, an arrangement she says helped toughen her for basketball, In turn, her brothers were protective of her. Last summer, those roles were reversed. In 1993, David Boyd (four years older than Jeanine) was diagnosed with a slowly progressive kidney disease. By last year, his kidney function had regressed to a critical 11 percent. He needed a transplant and Myers had been cleared as a perfect match. Nothing was guaranteed. Would his body reject the new kidney? Would her health be affected?

One year later, things could not be better. I haven’t felt this good since I was a teenage,” said David Boyd, a computer engineer in Orlando. “I think my sister is a hero. Yes, I do. “She gave me a second chance. She gave me a precious gift.” Myers more prone to logic and analytical thinking, will allow that life’s most meaningful moments are about relationships. She sensed that in 1988. Now she knows it for sure.

She’ll never know what might have happened, had she accepted a basketball scholarship. Her children have seen her scrapbook, sometimes marveling at the publicity their mother once received for playing a game. Some of Myers’ students ask her to join their intramural teams. Prodded. Myers acknowledges she can still play a little but, but now it’s recreating and exercise. How good could she have become? Her answer: It doesn’t matter.

Do I regret the decision to stop playing basketball? Myers said, “Sometimes, I’ll watch a game and see something like the WNBA and I’ll think, Hmmm, What if….”

But truly, I think I always knew there was more to life. And what I have in my life right now, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.” Once, she was nicknamed “The Dream.” Now she is simply living it!”

A is for Awe-Inspiring at Zephyrhills High School, St. Petersburg Times, by Michele Miller, May 7, 2008

He has landed a full ride at an Ivy League school: the University of Pennsylvania. Some might say Luke Thomas faces a tough road ahead, but he already knows the meaning of a hard day’s work. Besides attending Zephyrhills High and Pasco-Hernando Community College, Luke puts in 30 to 35 hours a week as an assistant manager and detailer at Ben’s Car Wash on Gall Boulevard.

“It’s hard juggling all that,” said Luke, adding that he has to punch out at 6 p.m. twice a week and head straight to classes at PHCC. “I pay for all my stuff-car insurance, clothes, cell phone and gas money. And I’m saving for expenses at college.”

Going to the University of Pennsylvania is a dream come true. “It’s where I really wanted to go. It has the best business school in the nation.”

Luke was determined to get there, working hard at everything while dealing with a crisis at home. About a year ago, his father, Gary, was diagnosed with colon cancer and has been in and out of the hospital ever since with complications. His mother, Colleen, works two jobs to keep things afloat.

So going to Penn comes with some mixed feelings.

“I kind of don’t want to be that far away from my dad. But my parents are supportive. They want me to go,” Luke said. “This has definitely been an experience. I guess it’s been a way of preparing me for life. What I have in front of me is probably easier than what I have right now.”

Zephyrhills’ salutatorian, Abbi Chaffin, got a taste of missionary work a few years ago. That and the fact that she has wanted to be a doctor “ever since I was little” have propelled her.

Abbi has ventured to Anderson, S.C., Jonesboro Beach, Ga., and Fort Walton Beach with other members of First Baptist Church of Wesley Chapel. This summer she’ll do mission work in New Orleans, and in 2009, she’s off to Brazil.

Doing construction work and conducting backyard Bible classes for kids in impoverished areas is rewarding, Abbi said.

“Some of these kids don’t even realize that there are people out there that care about them,” she said. “And the parents — when we go to their houses, they are so amazed that teenagers care. It’s great to break that stereotype.”

ZHS Valedictorian: Luke Thomas has a weighted GPA of 4.57 and plans to major in business at the University of Pennsylvania with his future career undecided.

Most inspirational person: My mother, Colleen Thomas, because of the strength and integrity she has displayed throughout my father’s battle with cancer.

Best advice or quote: “The secret to success is constancy to purpose” — Benjamin Disraeli.

Favorite place on campus: The commons area because it is a place where I can socialize with my peers, thus relieving stresses from my academics.

Favorite book: The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid.

Clubs/extracurriculars: National Honor Society, Future Business Leaders of America, Interact Club, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, basketball, golf, work at Ben’s Car Wash.

If you could, what would you change about the Pasco County or Florida education system? Produce a test that would more accurately assess a student’s academics than the FCAT.

ZHS Salutatorian: Kristin “Abbi” Chaffin has a weighted GPA of 4.46 (weighted) and plans to major in Pre-Med at Oxford/Emory University and eventually become a missionary surgeon in South America.

Most inspirational person/people: My mommy, Lisa Chaffin, and my daddy, Dan Chaffin. Both of them gave up the possibility of having more money in order to help their community and personally raise their five kids. They taught me that people are more important than paychecks.

Best advice or quote: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom” — James 3:13.

Favorite place on campus: The Bulldog Inn because it allows upperclassmen to congregate and eat together in a cozy restaurant-like environment.

Favorite book: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.

Clubs/extracurriculars: National Honor Society (president), Interact Club (vice president), Dogo Spanish Music Club, Showstoppers Show Choir, Souled Out Student Minorities Youth Band (captain), teacher’s assistant at Wesley Chapel Christian Preschool.

If you could, what would you change about the Pasco County or Florida education system? I wish the Florida education system would incorporate more career training and vocational opportunities for students not planning on attending college rather than focusing on making all students pass the FCAT, a standardized college-preparatory test that some will never need. I believe this will liberate more funding to go toward advanced courses for college-bound students and provide better options for all students. I believe this plan will also reduce the dropout rate immensely.

Jessica Davis Needed This One, Tampa Tribune, April 21, 2008, by Eddie Daniels

The Zephyrhills shortstop admits her district tournament plate appearances weren’t what she would have liked them to be. Her final at-bat in the Class 4A-District 8 title game against Pasco likely made up for any whiffs or pop-ups she experienced during the four-day tournament.

It was her single to right field that drove in Samantha Crews from third base in the top of the seventh inning, leading to the Bulldogs’ 3-2 victory against the Pirates.

“I just wanted to hit it somewhere in the outfield so she could tag up and get home somehow,” Davis said. “I didn’t want to strike out. I had it in my mind like, ‘I can’t strike out. I have to hit.’ I haven’t been hitting too well in the district tournament and I was hoping that my last at-bat would do something.” Doing something is an understatement.

The RBI single, which led to the victory, gave Zephyrhills (20-6) its fourth district title in five years. The squad had a three-year streak of district championships (2004-06) before Pasco (23-3) knocked them off last season at Springstead.

“She’s had many hits for Zephyrhills High School and I was hoping she had one more,” Zephyrhills coach Craig Milburn said. “I hope she’s not done, but she’s kind of been hot and cold this year. That one hit kind of takes away a lot of the bad at-bats. She’s a top-notch player.”

The win allows Zephyrhills to stay home, hosting Groveland South Lake (17-5), while Pasco will head east to face Harmony (18-7-1).

Catcher Stephanie Hartman ended the game with a laser throw to first, catching the Pasco runner leaning for the final out of the game.

Considering the circumstances, some catchers may not have made that throw. It was the bottom of the seventh inning; had that throw gone into the outfield and been booted around, Pasco could have either had a runner at third base or a tie game. On top of everything else, Hartman was hit in her throwing hand earlier in the game, which produced soreness and swelling.

None of that deterred Hartman.

“I knew that I could make it and I didn’t want to lose,” Hartman said. “It’s my senior year and I’m not playing anymore. I’m not going to college to play softball.

“I knew she was leaning and she was far enough off. I had confidence in myself and my first baseman Ashley Anderton. Ashley’s always been there for me.

“She’s amazing.”

There were several plays where Anderton had to go up for the throw to first and come down with her foot on the bag Friday night. Had it not been for her solid game at first, the outcome may have been a bit different.

“They’re a good ballclub,” Milburn said of Pasco. “I’m very proud of our girls to beat them.”

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