DENTON — Unbelievable is about the only word to describe what happened to Keller Fossil Ridge in its Class 5A Division II regional Saturday against Denton Ryan.
Trailing 31-0 in the first half, Ryan ran off 42 consecutive points to beat Fossil Ridge 42-37 at Apogee Stadium and advance to the state quarterfinals.
Fossil Ridge played about as well as you can play in any half during the first 24 minutes and scored the first 31 points on the way to a 31-7 halftime lead. The Panthers held Ryan to no first downs, 18 yards and six punts in that span, before the Raiders’ touchdown with 9 seconds left in the half.
The second half saw a huge momentum shift.
“We just didn’t do what we needed to do to win the game,” Fossil Ridge coach Tony Baccarini said. “Give Ryan credit. They’re a good team and you can’t let up on them like we did.”
Ryan (10-2), after the largest comeback in school history, will meet the Cedar Hill/Abilene Cooper winner next week.
Fossil Ridge (9-4) picked up 254 yards in the first half and scored on five of its six possessions, as quarterback Jacob Gnacinski completed 15 of 17 passes for 164 yards and three touchdowns.
The Panthers in the second half saw their first six possessions end in punts. They picked up just 33 yards until they scored as time expired to end the game on a 10-yard pass from Gnacinski to Ryan Parker.
Gnacinski completed his final game in a Panther uniform throwing for 294 yards and completing 21 of 31 passes with four scores.
While the Panthers were struggling offensively, they couldn’t find an answer to Ryan’s offense. After being forced to punt on their first series, the Raiders scored on their next five possessions, including the game-clincher on quarterback Mitchell Bridges’ 1-yard keeper with 24 seconds left.
Ridge answered with the pass to Parker as time expired. Down 34-31 after Bridges’ 2-yard run with 3:56 to play the Panthers had a chance. Starting at their own 26, Gnacinski was sacked on back-to-back plays on third and fourth down. It was the second straight series in which he was dropped on twice for losses. He was stopped six times for losses in the second half.
Ryan took over at its 11 and milked the clock, forcing Ridge to take their timeouts before the last score.
The Raiders picked up 255 yards in the second half as Bridges, who struggled in the first half completing 6 of 11 passes for 62 yards, finished with 199 yards passing completing 19 of 27.
“I’m extremely proud of all we accomplished this season,” Baccarini said. “We were picked fifth in district and to do what we did with these seniors speaks volumes of them. I told the kids the sun will come up tomorrow and appreciate what these seniors have done for the program.”
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