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Football: With another win, Ryan can do something it has never done

There's not a whole lot Ryan's football program hasn't accomplished. Since 2000, the Raiders have won two state championships in five trips to a title game, posted one 15-0 season, won numerous district titles and recently clinched a playoff berth for the 17th time.

But a win Thursday against Wichita Falls Rider at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex sends Ryan (9-0, 5-0 District 5-5A) into the Class 5A Division I playoffs with its third straight 10-0 regular season. 

No Ryan team has done that. The Raiders went 10-0 in back-to-back seasons in 2010 and 2011 before matching that feat in 2015 and 2016. Ryan's current 29-game regular-season win streak is the longest of its kind in program history. 

Its previous long was 25 regular-season wins in a row from 2009 to 2012.

"When you take a step back to reflect on the chance to do something like that, it's special," Ryan coach Dave Henigan said of going 10-0. "If you step back even further and look at the chance to do it three years in a row — that doesn't happen very often. It certainly hasn't happened here.

"This isn't our end goal, but we want to go 10-0. We want to win the district title outright."

Ryan is No. 3 in The Associated Press' 5A poll and appears to be firing on all cylinders. Its offense has been outstanding all year and is averaging 446.6 yards and 46.2 points per game, but Friday's 56-16 win at Denison showed a different side to the Raiders, as they broke from their passing game to roll up 350 rushing yards. 

Sophomore running back Emani Bailey had 228 of those yards with two touchdowns. Quarterback Spencer Sanders, an Oklahoma State commit, rushed for 110 yards and accounted for five touchdowns (three passing, two rushing) while throwing for 201 yards. He now has 102 career passing touchdowns.

That game also saw the Ryan defense force three turnovers and hold Denison scoreless on three drives into the Ryan red zone. Ryan has blocked a kick in five straight games.

"That's the sort of stuff you can build on throughout the season," Henigan said.

Senior defensive back Tamar Butts agreed.

"It's Ryan. We always have a good defense," Butts said. "Not a lot of people thought we'd be good because we're smaller and younger than last year. But we've worked hard to get here."

So has Rider (5-4, 4-1), which could have been unbeaten in district entering this game had it not been for a missed field at the end of regulation against Denison a few weeks ago. Denison went on to win that game in overtime.

Rider quarterback Jorge Vargas has thrown for 2,053 yards and 22 touchdowns for an offense that is averaging just more than 34 points. Jake Edgemon has 967 receiving yards and 15 scores.

Ryan and Rider are playing for the 15th time. Ryan leads the series 10-4.

"Rider is a good team and the quarterback is a really good player," Henigan said. "There's been a lot of really big games between Ryan and Rider, and this one is no different. They're coming in with a chance to grab a share of the district title, so there is motivation there. 

"It's easy to just look ahead to the playoffs. But this is still a big game."

STEVE GAMEL can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @NewspaperSteve.

What You Need to Know

Matchup: Ryan vs. Wichita Falls Rider
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: C.H. Collins Athletic Complex
What happened last year: Ryan won 38-14
Predictions:
Steve Gamel — Ryan 49, Rider 14
Jimmy Isbell — Ryan 56, Rider 21
Brady Keane — Ryan 49, Rider 14
Clay Massey — Ryan 42, Rider 14