High School Football

Denton Ryan storms past Grapevine to set up district title showdown with Birdville

Denton Ryan coach Dave Henigan knew that his Raiders wouldn’t overlook Grapevine for one second. Not even with Birdville on the radar in a rematch of a 2018 Class 5A-Division 1 state quarterfinal and with the District 4 title on the line. Not even with a 48-game regular season win streak on the line.

It was quite evident Thursday night.

Ryan (9-0, 6-0 District 4-5A-1) scored on its first seven possessions and held Grapevine to 208 yards of total offense with most of that damage coming in the second half to throttle the Mustangs 61-13 at C.H. Collins Athletics Complex.

“This is a mature football program,” Henigan said. “We don’t look past people. As soon as you look past people, you get beat. We don’t ever look past people. And our kids get that. And our coaches get that. It’s pretty easy for us, to be honest with you.”

The Raiders, ranked No. 3 in Class 5A-1 by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, clicked in all three phases from the get-go as they built a 45-0 halftime lead.

Ryan senior Drew Sanders, an Alabama commit, received his Under Armour All-American jersey as he was selected to play in that game Jan. 2, 2020, at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla.

On Thursday night, he took the direct snap from the Grapevine 7-yard line on the ninth play of the first Raiders drive and plowed his way for his first of two first-half touchdowns to open the scoring.

“It’s a long time coming,” Henigan said. “We’ve known that we were going to get it for a while. We just had to figure out a pep rally time. Today we just happened to have a pep rally.”

After a quick three-and-out for Grapevine (5-4, 3-3), which resulted in three consecutive running plays that went for negative yardage, Riley Nuzzo booted a 27-yard field goal, to increase Ryan’s lead to 10-0 with 5:26 left in the first quarter.

The Ryan defense constantly applied pressure from the outside defensive end positions and into the backfield as the Grapevine offense struggled to generate traction. The Raiders held the Mustangs to two first downs in the first half and Ryan outgained Grapevine 334 yards to 26 over that span.

“Definitely in the first half, it felt like we were hitting on all cylinders,” Ryan junior Billy Bowman Jr. said. “That’s what you need to do towards the end of the season, getting into the postseason.”

Bowman Jr. chipped in for Ryan’s special teams as he returned a punt 61 yards to put the Raiders comfortably in front 17-0 with 4:16 left in the first quarter. It was the first of three consecutive touchdowns for Bowman Jr. He caught passes of 8 yards and 6 from junior quarterback Seth Henigan in the second quarter as the Raiders built a 31-0 lead.

“It’s just a shell game the way we do it,” Coach Henigan said. “Sometimes I don’t even know who’s in the game. We just dial something up. But you know that you have a good player at that position. Sometimes it’s Drew, Ja’Tavion (Sanders), Del’Shun (Neal) or Billy. But obviously the Wildcat stuff is Drew. He scored once, maybe twice. Those guys are special players.”

Ryan won with balance. The Raiders finished with 554 yards of offense — 332 passing and 222 rushing. Seth Henigan finished 17-of-25 passing for 277 yards and four touchdowns in two and a half quarters of action before being replaced by Martin Rodriguez midway through the third quarter. Emani Bailey rushed for 113 yards on just eight carries, including a 69-yard burst that set up Ryan’s third touchdown.

Ryan increased its regular-season win streak to 49 games and can make it 50 with a win next Friday over Birdville, which lost to the Raiders 28-0 in last season’s state quarterfinal. Next week’s game, which will be played at Birdville, will be for the district title. Grapevine can clinch the final playoff berth in the district with a win next week against Turner or a Denton loss.

“We’ll enjoy this one time and worry about them (Birdville) tomorrow or on the weekend,” Coach Henigan said. “We know each other. We played each other twice last year. We played them in the playoffs two years ago. We’re pretty familiar. They’re a tough team, very physical. Good quarterback. But we’ll enjoy this one tonight.”

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