There are many things Ryan has accomplished since reaching the Class 4A state championship game in 2000.
There have been state championships, undefeated seasons and a slew of district titles. However, none of those accomplishments has come at the Class 5A level.
Ryan understands that only one of those things ultimately matters. When District 5-5A play starts at 7:30 tonight at Marauder Stadium against Flower Mound Marcus, the Raiders will continue their trek to tackle the most important of those three items.
Ryan coach Joey Florence said the team’s main goal during district play is to earn the best playoff seed.
“We’re really trying to get into the playoffs, and we’re trying to get the highest seed we can get,” Florence said. “We really don’t talk about district championships around here. We’ve won them and they’re not insignificant — I don’t mean to say that — but we just don’t talk about them much.”
The Raiders have won all four of their games this season but have played just one game in the last three weeks — an easy 49-20 win over McKinney. Marcus (1-4) has lost four straight games, failing to score more than 17 points each time.
A win tonight would give Florence his 200th career victory as a head coach. The 47-year old said he gets nervous when people bring up the milestone.
“I’m aware of it, but it’s very insignificant to me,” Florence said. “I want this year’s team to make the playoffs. They deserve it. They’ve worked very hard and they’re a great bunch of kids. That’s my focus — to get these kids in the playoffs — and we’ll see what happens when we get there.”
Last season, Coppell took home the district championship. Ryan clinched its playoff berth on the last week of the regular season. Ryan was one of the three teams behind Coppell with a 3-2 record in district play, and Ryan ended up finishing second in the six-team district as 5-5A’s top seed in the Division II bracket.
Ryan defensive tackle J.T. Williams expressed how a win today could set a tone for the rest of district play and set Ryan on its way to claiming the district’s top Division II playoff seed again.
“It’d be a great win for the team,” Williams said. “The preseason’s over. It’s a whole new season. Everybody is 0-0. Going 1-0 in district, I think it’ll give us a little better mentality.”
Ryan faces a Marcus team that gained only 181 total yards in a 17-3 loss to Plano last week. Ryan allows an average of 253 yards per game.
In the second game of the season, Marcus quarterback Cole Erwin suffered a season-ending knee injury for the second straight season. Taylor Gibbs replaced Erwin and has thrown for three touchdowns and five interceptions.
Before the season, Florence said the district opener against the Marauders was one of Ryan’s biggest games of the year.
“The first district game, we’ve always tried to make it an important thing,” Florence said. “Obviously there’s a lot of pressure if you lose the first one, and you have Hebron sitting there right behind them. So it’s an important game.”
His players understand what the team’s ultimate goals are. And while fixtures against Coppell and Hebron loom in the distance, senior running back Tyrone Williams said the Raiders are prepared to do what’s necessary to be in their desired position when the postseason begins.
“I feel like we can go undefeated, but I’m not going to underestimate [5-5A teams],” Tyrone Williams said. “They have some very talented players and some very good head coaches, but I feel like if we practice like we play, we’re going to be very good.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.