If Ryan was looking for a test, it got it in a big way on Friday night.
Faced with its biggest regular season challenge in almost two years, the Raiders managed to recover from a fourth quarter deficit and used a big kick by sophomore Mark Orozco and a gutsy touchdown run by Mitchell Bridges to escape an upset at the hands of Mesquite with a 28-22 double overtime win at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex.
"I knew [Mesquite] was a very talented team," said Ryan coach Joey Florence. "They came in and gave us a heck of a battle. They outplayed us at times and it's a shame someone had to lose that game. Frankly, we're pretty fortunate to get out of this one with a win."
Recently, Mesquite hadn't looked very talented.
A once proud program that won a state title with an undefeated season as recently as 2001, the Skeeters finished 1-9 in both 2009 and 2010 and suffered a blowout at the hands of Ryan last season at home.
Yet, this year, they looked like an entirely different team - even when faced with Ryan (4-0) and its stellar defense.
The Raiders opened the game fast and took an early 8-0 lead after linebacker Jordan Richmond carried out of Ryan's short-yardage package and blew through a gaping hole in the middle of the line for a 52-yard touchdown that was followed by a successful two-point conversion run by Sam Benton.
After that, though, the Ryan offense fizzed - hampered in part by the rainy weather responsible for a nearly hour long delay before kickoff and in part by Mesquite's athletic defense.
Following Richmond's touchdown, Ryan was shut out for two quarters while Mesquite rallied back to take a 16-8 lead into the fourth quarter behind the legs of quarterback Alex Cooper and running back Junior Session.
Even running against Ryan's hyped defense, Session found some success. He rarely broke through Ryan's front four, but when he did he used an impressive array of moves and blazing speed to make it count. He broke a 49-yard run to set up Mesquite's first points of the game - a field goal by kicker Jose Salas - and scored later on a 71-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Those two runs accounted for all but 11 of Session's 131 yards on the night.
Cooper, meanwhile, threw for just 79 yards on the night and was intercepted by Trey Mohair in the second quarter but extended plays with his legs and had a 40-yard run of his night.
"They just came out pretty hard," Richmond said. "They gave us a fight and we just had to fight back."
When it counted, that's exactly what the Raiders did.
The defense held up in the fourth and Ryan fought back - scoring on a two yard run by Jerrick Harvey and a 39-yard field goal with 2:12 remaining by Orozco that gave Ryan a 19-16 lead. Led by Session and Cooper, though, Mesquite drove back to tie and the end of regulation and managed to exchange field goals with Ryan in the first overtime.
In the second overtime, though, Ryan sealed the deal.
The defense held Mesquite to 1 yard on three plays and Salas' field goal attempt fell just short, bouncing off the bottom cross bar. Ryan then drove down to the Mesquite 2-yard-line and won the game after backup quarterback Mitchell Bridges leapt over two Mesquite defenders into the end zone on a bootleg from the short yardage package.
Harvey, who along with the rest of Ryan's starters has seen limited action in the last two games, carried the load on offense with 140 yards on 29 carries with a touchdown.
MARSHALL MOORE can be reached at 940-566-6869. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ryan 28, Mesquite 22 (2OT)
Mesquite 0 3 13 3 3 6 -- 28
Ryan 8 0 0 11 3 0 -- 22
R - Jordan Richmond 52 run (Run successful), 9:04
M - Jose Salas 27 field goal, 11:58
M - Kavaski Ervin 22 pass from Alex Cooper (Pass failed), 6:21
M - Junior Session 71 run (Salas kick), 4:45
R - Jerrick Harvey 2 run (Run successful), 11:27
R - Mark Orozco 39 field goal, 2:12
M - Salas 36 field goal, :00
R - Orozco 37 field goal
M - Salas 34 field goal
R - Mitchell Bridges 2 run
First downs 10 10
Rushing yards 38-181 41-191
Passing yards 79 67
Total yards 260 258
Passes 1-17-1 8-15-0
Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-1
Punts-avg 6-39.5 6-33.2
Penalties-yds 6-63 4-30
RUSHING: M - Junior Session 23-131, Alex Cooper 11-47, Kavaski Ervin 2-2, Tyson Reed 1-2, Desmond Jackson 1-(minus 1). R - Jerrick Harvey 29-140, Jordan Richmond 2-55, Mitchell Bridges 1-2, Reynal Caldwell 1-(minus 2), Kevin Carpenter 8-(minus 4).
PASSING: M - Alex Cooper 8-17-79-1. R - Kevin Carpenter 8-15-67-0.
RECEIVING: M -Kavaski Ervin 3-37, Dameon Gamblin 3-19, Junior Session 1-14, Aaron Lloyd 1-9. R - Sam Johnson 1-24, Craig Moore 4-16, Trey Mohair 1-12, Jerrick Harvey 1-10, Sterling Fuggett 1-5.