River Ridge’s hopes for qualifying of the Class 5A postseason were dealt a blow last week when the Royal Knights lost to Zephyrhills 21-19.

NEW PORT RICHEY — Everyone knew heading into last Friday’s tilt between River Ridge and Zephyrhills that the winner was likely going to control its own fate when it came to postseason qualifying in Class 5A.

Bulldogs Head Coach Nick Carroll played off believing his team had already notched Class 5A, District 8, but his team celebrated afterwards knowing the meaning of how big the victory really was.

“We still got two big district games left,” Carroll said after Zephyrhills’ 21-19 win over River Ridge. “We’ve got Wesley Chapel still and they’re a very good football team and Hudson still on the schedule. We’ve still got two more big district games to go.”

Most already know even though Zephyrhills (7-0, 4-0) does still have a couple district games left in the bag, the Bulldogs have now passed their biggest test of the season. River Ridge (4-3, 3-1) was always going to be Zephyrhills’ biggest test when it came to district play and the Bulldogs passed with flying colors.

Bulldogs’ quarterback Doug Crawford played well under immense pressure from the Royal Knights’ defense, completing 9-of-11 passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns. Crawford’s clutch play in the second half, paired with strong performance from Catrell Strong, who also had a 50-yard punt return for a score, vaulted Zephyrhills to its seventh win of the season.

Carroll, though, did feel that his offense can do a better job despite picking up the narrow victory. The Bulldogs had trouble moving the ball down the field against a stiff Royal Knights’ defense, which forced a couple turnovers on the night.

“We have to be better on offense,” Zephyrhills Coach Nick Carroll said afterwards. “River Ridge is a very good football team. I respect the heck out of their coaches. Anytime you face them, you know it’s going to be a battle.”

Andy Villamarzo can be reached at and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.