NEW PORT RICHEY — There's no understating how big Friday’s Class 5A, District 8 matchup between Zephyrhills and River Ridge will be in terms of playoff implications.
With the new FHSAA rules in place for the second year in a row, strength of schedule plays a huge role into things and unfortunately for River Ridge, losses to Pinellas Park and Mitchell would’ve been key victories in pushing the points meter its way. Instead, the Royal Knights are hoping to keep their playoff streak alive and extend it to five appearances in a row.
To achieve that, River Ridge will have to get through undefeated Zephyrhills, who sits at 6-0 on the season and at times have looked unbeatable. The Bulldogs are coming off a 44-0 thrashing of Anclote and it’s safe to say they’ve had their eyes on this Friday’s game for quite a bit. Same goes for River Ridge after a 62-0 blowout of Gulf.
Offensively for River Ridge, Ryan Benjamin has had to shuffle his quarterbacks in order to get things moving and both Kyle St. John (195 yards, 2 TDs) and DJ Mann (236 yards, 2 TDs) have seen time under center. The Royal Knights feature more of a run-based attack, as four players have rushed for more than 100 yards. Leading the group is two-way star Anthony Roussos, who has rushed for 192 so far.
Over on the defensive side of the ball, outside of allowing 42 points to Pinellas Park and 14 to Mitchell, River Ridge has pitched four straight shutouts against West Park Prep, Anclote, Fivay and Gulf. DJ Mann leads the defense with 29 tackles, awhile Roussos and Connor Finer are tied for sacks at two apiece.
On the Zephyrhills side of things, offensively the Bulldogs haven’t had no such troubles moving the football no matter who’s been under center. Pasco transfers Doug Crawford (303 yards) and Dylan Wood (290 yards) have both seen time at quarterback, with the two combining for nine touchdown passes so far. Leading the receiving corps is Tre’pavis Mobley (158 yards), Catrell Strong (156 yards) and Division I prospect Ja’quan Sheppard (136 yards).
The game will take place this Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Jim Valentine Sports Complex.