After watching Ryan beat Wichita Falls Rider on Thursday, I went down to the field at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex and asked quarterback Spencer Sanders what he thought about the playoffs finally getting started. He perked up and said exactly what I expected, "I can't wait."
That's pretty much the same way every Denton-area football player feels, right? After 11 weeks of getting your team into a position to advance to the postseason, now it's time to go do something with that opportunity. For some athletes, this week represents their first chance to play in a postseason game. For others, including a senior like Sanders, this is their final chance to win it all.
Eight of the 13 teams in the Denton Record-Chronicle coverage area will have playoff openers this week, including Ryan, Guyer, Argyle, Lake Dallas, Sanger, Aubrey, Pilot Point and Liberty Christian. With the exception of Lake Dallas and Pilot Point, all were in the playoffs a year ago.
Here's a look at how some of those teams fared last week, and what they have to look forward to in the playoffs.
Ryan claimed a program-first third straight 10-0 regular season with this latest win. That's a big accomplishment for a program that already has done so much since 2000. But as coach Dave Henigan was overheard saying after the win, the Raiders have six playoff games to win — further proving this team's eyes are firmly planted on winning a state title. First up on the docket is Fort Worth Brewer at 7 p.m. Thursday at C.H. Collins. Ryan beat this team 54-13 last year in the first round. Expect to see a similar outcome in the rematch. Oh, and one stat of note: the Ryan defense has 18 red zone stops going into the postseason. Six were over the last two games.
Guyer has won its last three games and hasn't given up more than a touchdown in its last two. On top of that, it has resurrected a passing game that has been dormant for quite some time. Over the last two games, the Wildcats have thrown for 443 yards. In their first eight games, they passed for 551 yards. If they can keep that passing attack on-point, it should help take a lot of pressure of sophomore running back Kaedric Cobbs in the playoffs. Speaking of playoffs, Guyer hosts Trophy Club Nelson at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Nelson has played well this season, but it has never beat Guyer. I don't anticipate that changing this year.
Lake Dallas had won five of six before its tumble Friday against Prosper. The Falcons are a vastly-improved team and deserve to be playing this week, but they'll need to show exactly how good they are against a Frisco Reedy team that hardly looks like a team that is in the playoffs for the first time. Looking at the tale of the tape, both teams are giving up roughly the same amount of points per game — Lake Dallas (6-4) is surrendering 28.4 and Reedy is at 23.4 — and Reedy is only scoring roughly eight points more a game. But at 9-1, Reedy has to be coming in as the favorite.
Even without injured quarterback Jon Copeland, Argyle boasts the No. 3 offense (442.4 points per game) and a defense that his holding opponents under 300 yards per game heading into Friday's playoff opener at Snyder. Like I've said before, I don't think this team gets challenged until at least the third round. And even then, I still think the Eagles have enough to push for a Class 4A Division I title. A lot has to go there way, but with a perfect record and a history of making it to the big dance, who's going to bet against them?
Aubrey is coming off yet another loss to Celina, but the Chaparrals are one of those teams you pull for moving forward. Aubrey has faced injuries all year, including losing guys like Gatlin Grisso and Jordan Redfearn. Losing two guys like that is more than enough to sink any team's playoff chances, but here Aubrey is gearing up for a date against Canton after finishing the regular season with just three losses. The 4A Division II bracket won't be easy, especially with Texarkana Pleasant Grove looming. But this team was talking a deep playoff run before the season started, and I don't think these players have taken their eyes off that prize.
STEVE GAMEL can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @NewspaperSteve.