After his team finished its customary Wednesday routine and was dismissed for the evening, Ryan coach Joey Florence asked his seniors to walk a few steps to their left and kneel around him.
One of the players not in the newly forming cluster jokingly counted the few players walking away.
The seniors kneeled around Florence as he implored them to realize the significance of tonight’s District 5-5A game against the Lewisville Fighting Farmers, slated to begin at 7:30 p.m. at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex.
Ryan is coming off a loss to Hebron last week and is looking to rebound and bolster its playoff hopes.
“We’ve got to bounce back,” Ryan senior defensive end Sekou Clark said. “We’re not used to losing around here. We can’t let that affect us.”
Tonight’s contest will have serious playoff implications for both schools. Ryan (5-1, 1-1 district) is among four schools sandwiched between Coppell at the top of the district standings and Flower Mound at the bottom.
Because there are only six teams in the district, the significance of each game is amplified as the teams vie for four playoff berths.
A win against Lewisville (3-4, 1-1) would put Ryan in position to make the postseason for the 14th straight season, all under Florence.
Florence, who’s in his 20th overall season as a head coach, has never missed the postseason.
The Raiders will be without starting defensive end Nolan Robinson and defensive back Ronnie Coleman.
Robinson, the team leader in tackles for loss, appeared to suffer a knee injury in last week’s 31-17 loss to Hebron. Florence said Coleman suffered a shoulder-related injury late in the game.
The outlook for both seniors was to be determined by the end of this week, Florence said Tuesday.
“Those are two really good players, and we hate to lose them,” Florence said. “Hopefully they’re not gone for the season. Hopefully we can get some good news on this deal. It’s part of the game. You just the hope the other kids can pick it up and go play.”
Lewisville coach Gregg Miller said the Fighting Farmers will be without starting guard Brandon Lyons, who left last week’s loss to Flower Mound Marcus because of concussion-like symptoms.
Miller called Lyons one of the leaders of his offensive line. The Lewisville coach also recognizes the importance of tonight’s game and said he knows what his team is up against.
“We’d really have to play our very best game to keep up with those guys and beat them,” Miller said.
Florence expects another tough contest in what’s again proved to be a very competitive district. Last year, Ryan beat Lewisville 28-24 after fourth-string Raider quarterback Kevin Ray replaced Mitchell Bridges when he was knocked out of the game with an injury.
Over the past couple of weeks, Bridges and the Ryan offense have struggled to score touchdowns when in the red zone, something the senior said the offense is out to correct.
“We’ve been stopped down there a couple of times, which is very uncharacteristic of us,” Bridges said. “But I think this week we’ll get it done. This week we’re going to come ready to play more than ever.”
Bridges said the intensity at practice had increased over the past couple of weeks. Florence’s speech after Wednesday’s practice was an indication of how big today’s game will be.
A loss to the Farmers could jeopardize Ryan’s playoff streak.
“If we don’t get it done, then for the rest of our lives we’ll be the class that didn’t get it done,” Clark said. “Everybody else did it.”