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Knights' win special in many ways

No one was happier to see River Ridge High win the first football game in school history than Jan Schmitz, wife of head coach Scott Schmitz.

"She says I'm a little easier to live with now," the coach said Monday.

Indeed, life is good this week at River Ridge after Friday's 6-2 victory over Zephyrhills. The second-year school ended a 13-game skid that included an 0-10 record last season and an 0-3 start this year.

"This feels a heck of a lot better than losing, I can tell you that," Schmitz said. "You can talk and preach all you want: "You guys are capable of winning.' But until you actually go out and do it there is always that lingering doubt.

"Now they know they are capable of winning and their attitude will be better, and they will go out and practice better."

Having the right attitude was the key to winning Friday, Schmitz said. Zephyrhills also entered the game 0-3 and Schmitz convinced his team it had a chance.

"This was the first time in 13 games that we prepared to win instead of just going through the motions," Schmitz said. "We felt enough was enough, and we had a great week of practice. The coaching staff did a great job of motivating and preparing the team."

In fact, the winning touchdown came off special-teams play, which River Ridge paid particular attention to last week, having noticed a weakness in the Zephyrhills punting game.

The rainy weather also played a part in River Ridge's score as the ball squirted out of the hands of Zephyrhills punter Steve Morris on the long snap at the Bulldogs' 2-yard line and Stan Kerr plucked it out of the air and ran into the end zone.

"Rumbled was more like it," Schmitz said. "We felt even before the rain that the punt block was something that would work, and we worked on it all week. We had the block on and their punter didn't handle the snap."

"I didn't know it was a touchdown until I saw the referee raise his hands," Kerr said of the second-quarter score. "It felt great."

Kerr, a 6-foot, 218-pound tackle, was part of a River Ridge defense that repelled three Zephyrhills drives inside the Royal Knights' 20-yard line. The last drive went to the 7-yard line in the game's waning moments before the Bulldogs fumbled and River Ridge recovered.

"The weather played a factor _ for both teams," Schmitz said. "We came up with the breaks when we had to."

Schmitz also realizes River Ridge caught traditionally strong Zephyrhills in a rebuilding year. The Bulldogs went 7-4 last season and humbled River Ridge 56-6.

"Tom (Fisher) does a very good job and has done great in the past," Schmitz said of the Zephyrhills coach. "We definitely caught them on a down year."

But that does not detract from River Ridge's first victory, the coach said.

"We've had our noses rubbed in the mud a bit," Schmitz said, "so this is a great win for our program and for our school."

And as the final seconds ticked off the clock Friday, Schmitz, already soaking wet, was dunked by his 9-year-old son, Tanner.

And Jan Schmitz just smiled.