DENISON — On a night where Denison dared Ryan to run the ball, the Raiders didn't shy away.
Sophomore running back Emani Bailey rushed for 228 yards and two touchdowns Friday as Ryan racked up 551 total yards to coast to a 56-16 win at Munson Stadium. Ryan (9-0, 5-0 District 5-5A) now has at least a share of the district title with one game to play.
Bailey scored on a 9-yard run in the second quarter and a 1-yard run in the fourth, and he carried the ball 20 times while averaging more than 11 yards per carry. As a team, the Raiders, No. 3 in The Associated Press' Class 5A poll, rushed for 350 yards.
"As we were running through our plays, I just knew I had to do something," Bailey said.
Denison (7-2, 4-1) took an early 2-0 lead off a safety. Meanwhile, Ryan's offense struggled to pass the ball. But after the Raiders' first two drives came up empty, the Ryan coaching staff gave the ball to Bailey. The first scoring drive consisted of 12 plays, eight of them rushing, to give Ryan a 7-2 lead with 9:21 to play in the first half.
That kick-started a 28-point run for Ryan as Bailey finished the first half with 84 yards on the ground. He rushed for 144 yards in the second half, including an 80-yard run to set up a 15-yard touchdown run by Spencer Sanders to extend Ryan's lead to 49-16 with 11:28 left in the game.
Sanders finished with 110 rushing yards and two touchdowns. And because of Bailey's performance, his night through the air didn't end up bad, either. Sanders completed 15 of 32 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns.
Tauskie Dove caught eight passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns. Both of his scores came in the final 3:48 of the first half and went for 19 and 17 yards.
"Emani is a great player, and the offensive line did a tremendous job," Ryan coach Dave Henigan said. "[Denison] dared us to run, and we did. That's a good team we just beat. We settled in and played well on both sides of the ball."
Ryan's defense gave up 360 yards, but that wasn't indicative of the Raiders' performance as they forced three turnovers and held Denison to zero points on three drives that ended at or inside the Ryan 6-yard line. One of those drives ended with a blocked field goal in the first quarter.
"We talk to our players all the time about empty yards," Henigan said. "Denison had a lot of yards in the middle of the field, but you win games by holding teams to a field goal or no points when you get down into the red zone. We did that tonight."
With Ryan leading 28-9 and having just given up a score and a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, defensive back Tra Smith picked off Denison quarterback Austin Emery and returned it 65 yards for a touchdown with 8:25 to go in the third quarter. That score extended Ryan's lead to 26.
Ryan scored three more times after that, all on rushing plays.
Ryan is one win away from extending its regular season win streak to 30 games. The Raiders are looking for their third straight outright district title, one in Class 6A and two in 5A.
"We just need to go back to work and do what we do," Henigan said.
STEVE GAMEL can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @NewspaperSteve.
Ryan 56, Denison 16
DO -- 0 safety, ball snapped out of end zone
DR -- Gabriel Douglas 7 pass from Spencer Sanders (Luis Cantu kick)
DR -- Emani Bailey 9 run (Luis Cantu kick)
DR -- Chritauskie Dove 19 pass from Spencer Sanders (Luis Cantu kick)
DR -- Chritauskie Dove 17 pass from Spencer Sanders (Luis Cantu kick)
DO -- Dalton Souther 8 pass from Austin Emery (Austin Emery kick)
DR -- Tra Smith 65 interception return (Luis Cantu kick)
DO -- Kenny Gaffney 11 run (Austin Emery kick)
DR -- Spencer Sanders 3 run (Luis Cantu kick)
DR -- Spencer Sanders 15 run (Luis Cantu kick)
DR -- Emani Bailey 1 run (Luis Cantu kick)
Rushing -- DO: Ty McFail 21-127, Bryan Roberts 10-36, Kenny Gaffney 12-32, Austin Emery 13-27, Decurious Smith 2-7, Pierce Barker 1-7, Darrian Butler 2-4, DJ Gray 1-0, DR: Emani Bailey 20-228, Spencer Sanders 13-110, Jose Gaona Jr. 10-37, Team Stat 1--25.
Passing -- DO: Austin Emery 8-14-1-120, DR: Spencer Sanders 15-32-0-201, Billy Bowman Jr. 0-1-0-0.
Receiving -- DO: Dalton Souther 3-54, Decurious Smith 1-20, DJ Gray 1-19, Cayden Earnhart 2-17, Pierce Barker 1-10, DR: Chritauskie Dove 8-143, Gabriel Douglas 5-48, Jamarion Robertson 1-8, Billy Bowman Jr. 1-2.