Birdville jumped out to a quick lead, but Denton Ryan came back with a vengeance to take the District 4-5A Division I crown by holding off the Hawks 49-28 on Thursday at the Collins Athletic Complex.
Birdville (9-1 overall, 6-1 district), ranked No. 6 in the Star-Telegram Class 5A Power Rankings, took advantage of every early break. The Hawks recovered a Ryan fumble on the opening kickoff and scored two plays later on a Stone Earle to Brendton Northey 21-yard pass.
On Ryan’s next series, a bad snap on a field goal gave the Hawks the ball back at their own 29. Earle hit Northey again with a 66-yard pass play to set up a three-yard touchdown run by Laderrious Mixon. The score gave Birdville a 14-0 lead with 3:14 left in the first quarter.
But Ryan (10-0, 7-0) scored the next 42 points of the game sparked by two Birdville miscues.
Following a 54-yard TD run by Emani Bailey that tied the game at 14 with 9:39 left in the second quarter, the Raiders scored twice in less than a minute.
An interception by Ryan linebacker/receiver Drew Sanders set up his own 13-yard scoring reception from Seth Henigan on the ensuing play. Sanders opened the scoring for Ryan on a one-yard run.
Raiders defensive back/receiver Billy Bowman Jr. ended Birdville’s next drive with an interception returned 27 yards for a touchdown and a 28-14 Ryan lead with 8:07 left before halftime.
Birdville, who was looking for its first district title since 2012, pulled to within 42-28 with 11:57 left in the game on a one-yard TD runs by Mixon and Damian Morrell, but couldn’t complete the comeback.
Bowman scored on two passes, 37 and 13 yards, from Henigan in the second half. Henigan completed 15-of-22 passes for 180 yards and four touchdowns.
Game was over when: Trailing 42-28, Birdville linebacker Andrew Kopenec picked up a Ryan fumble and returned it 15 yards to the Raiders 31. But five plays later Ryan defensive back Stanley Nwosu picked off a Birdville pass at the nine yard line to kill the threat. Ryan used a fake punt that picked up 34 yards to keep the ensuing drive alive. The Raiders scored on a 13-yard Seth Henigan shuffle pass to Billy Bowman Jr. to put the game out of reach at 49-28 with 4:43 left in the game.
Play of the game: Tough to choose between Billy Bowman Jr.’s 27-yard interception return for a touchdown and Stanley Nwosu’s pick that killed Birdville’s momentum late in the game. Both were huge.
Offensive player of the game: Ryan quarterback Seth Henigan had a great night completing 15 passes in 22 attempts for 180 yards. Henigan had scoring passes of 13, 26, 37, and 13 yards. Two of those scores, 37 and 13, went to Billy Bowman Jr. with had six catches for 70 yards and an interception return for a TD. Emani Bailey rushed 16 times for 103 yards and had a 54-yard touchdown run.
Defensive player of the game: Ryan defense end Delshun Neal seemed to be everywhere. The Raiders defense put tremendous pressure on Birdville quarterback Stone Earle all night, forcing three interceptions.
Unsung hero of the game: Birdville outgained Ryan 395 to 326 in total yards and had 26 first downs to Ryan’s 14. Laderrious Mixon rushed 38 times for 180 yards and two scores. Quarterback Stone Earle threw for 191 yards completing 12-of-25 passes, but did get picked off three times dues to the pressure by Ryan’s defense.
What’s next? Both teams are headed to the playoffs. Ryan will host Fort Worth Brewer on Thursday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. back here at the Collins Athletic Complex in Denton. Birdville will host the loser of the Boswell-Crowley game that will be played on Friday.