ZEPHYRHILLS — The goal before the 2021 season was set before any games ever took place, and that was to win the Class 2A state championship.
That has been the mentality of Zephyrhills Christian Academy‘s football team and now the Warriors are in the Class 2A Elite 8. ZCA has a realistic shot of being the first state semifinalist from Pasco County since 2011, when Pasco High accomplished the feat by beating Jesuit, 31-7.
ZCA head coach Mike Smith, who is also the founder of the school and its pastor, has always set the bar high for his group and a rematch with Orlando Christian Prep, who the Warriors lost to 15-12 to end the regular season, is one his club eagerly awaits.
“The year goal coming in was to make the playoffs and win a state title,” said Smith. “We know we have our hands full with that. It is not an easy road. I have said from the start of the year, even at media day, we are a top-4 team in the state. I still believe that. Either way we have had a heck of a year, but we're focused on winning this week.”
The Warriors have been especially tough to stop on offense, as ZCA is averaging 38.6 points per game and yielding just 10.3. A lot of the offensive burden has been placed on running back Dontrevius Jackson, who has rushed for a county-high 1,803 yards and 18 touchdowns. Jackson’s elusiveness in the backfield makes him one of the top tailbacks in the North Suncoast.
He is paired up with quarterback Adrian Miller III, who has had to step in for the injured Jaycee Nixon. Miller III has thrown for 486 yards and six touchdowns and rushed for another 358. Other playmakers include junior EJ Allen (21 catches, 377 yards, 7 touchdowns), Quavious Cook (22 catches, 382 yards), Demitri Whitehead (89 tackles) and defensive end Zyon Vaughn-Nobles (23.5 sacks).
The rematch with Orlando Christian Prep (also the Warriors) will be an intense one, as the first go-round came down to the final quarter in a one-score game. The Warriors' balanced offensive attack is led by quarterback Vilay Nakkoun, who has thrown for 973 yards and 16 touchdowns versus just three interceptions. The rushing attack features tailbacks Brian Thomas (517 yards, 5 TDs) and Curtis Kimmons (489 yards, 3 TDs).
“The rematch is definitely interesting,” Smith added. “I really feel we threw that game away. We had almost 200 yards in penalties. It seemed to be the theme of the game. We missed blocks that were crucial and didn't coach nor play the way we are capable.”
“I do not take anything away from OCP. They beat us. We have to do a better job up front. Penalties cannot be the deciding factor and defensively we cannot blow coverages. We played poor and lost 15-12. If we perform as we're capable of we can win the game. Our kids seem ready to play, focused and have belief that we can win this go-around.”
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.