Football: Ryan starts with three-week road swing

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Ryan will have to wait awhile before it gets a chance to play a down on the new turf that was installed at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex over the summer.

The next three weeks will be filled with bus rides to opponents’ stadiums and pep talks in foreign locker rooms. In fact, it’ll be the first time in program history that the Raiders will start the season with three consecutive road games.

The three-game trek starts tonight when Ryan opens the season against Corsicana at 7:30 p.m. at Tiger Stadium.

Last year, when Ryan opened the season at home against the Tigers, the Raiders had a slew of juniors at key positions — juniors who helped Ryan come away with a 40-28 victory.

Those juniors are now seniors, and Ryan coach Joey Florence likes his odds with the veteran ballclub. Following tonight’s game at Corsicana, Ryan travels to Wichita Falls Rider next week and then Wylie East before hosting McKinney on Sept. 27.

“It’s a challenge,” Florence said. “It’s unusual and I hated the schedule when we did it, but it’s just what we felt at the time was best for us. Going to Corsicana, going to Wichita Falls and going to Wylie, those are three tough places to play.”

Against those three Class 4A teams last season, the Class 5A Raiders lost two of three. The lone win was against Corsicana, which saw a 19-point halftime lead disappear in the second half.

The 2012 season opener illustrated how much resolve Ryan was going to display in a season when injuries at quarterback beleaguered the offense. Ryan finished last season with a record of 6-5 and in second place in District 5-5A. The Raiders lost to Cedar Hill in the area round of the 5A Division II playoffs.

Florence said he was proud of the way his team responded from the halftime deficit against Corsicana last season.

“If you don’t have that character and you don’t have that resolve, they would have folded last year at halftime,” Florence said. “And they didn’t. That’s why I love coaching here. Our kids expect to win. Nobody panicked last year at halftime.”

Along with the seniors on the roster, there will be differences on this year’s squad compared with the team that played the Tigers last season.

Paul Hunter, last year’s junior varsity quarterback, will be starting at free safety for the Raiders. A.J. Anderson makes the switch from running back to linebacker, while Reese Strait goes from linebacker to the defensive line.

Anderson said he’s ready to step on a foreign field in his new role on the defense.

“Road games are always tough,” Anderson said. “You have to go out there with the right mindset and keeping working hard.”

The last time Florence played in Corsicana was in 1983, when he was a free safety for a Rockwall team that got crushed 34-17. One of Florence’s biggest wins at Ryan was in 2000, when the Raiders topped the Tigers 33-29 in the Class 4A Division I state quarterfinals.

Ryan has won all three previous matchups against Corsicana.

Strait said he’s excited to step into his new role as well in the first game of the season. He also said the season opener could be an indicator as to how the season is going to play out.

“This first game will most likely define our season and how we’re going to be,” Strait said. “This is the one where everybody’s been talking about it, and we have to put everything we’ve got into this game. It’ll show us what we have.”


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