The teams at Ryan, along with tradition-rich teams across the state, are not measured by what happens during the regular season.
The benchmark established by 13 previous playoff appearances means a postseason berth is the minimum goal for Ryan’s football teams.
Going into the final game of the regular season against Flower Mound, the Raiders have the minimum secured before today’s 7:30 p.m. kickoff at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex.
But don’t expect Ryan coach Joey Florence to prop his feet up and bench his starters.
“We’re going to play to win,” Florence said. “We do not want to lose two games in a row and back in to the playoffs. It’s important to have momentum. We need to play better.”
Ryan (6-2, 2-2 District 5-5A) suffered its worst loss since 2007 in a 28-3 decision against Coppell last week. However, with Flower Mound Marcus’ loss to Flower Mound (2-7, 1-3), Ryan clinched its 14th straight playoff berth heading into its final district contest.
Ryan has not missed the playoffs since Florence took over as head coach in 2000, and Florence has never missed the postseason in his 20 years as a head coach.
The 47-year old coach said this year’s playoff appearance is an indication of the leadership of Ryan’s surplus of seniors and their work throughout the season.
“We’re not playing a creampuff schedule,” Florence said. “This is a tough, nine-game schedule. For us to make it to the playoffs, that was our goal, and we achieved that. We’ll sit down next week and re-evaluate what our goals are for the third season.”
The third season — the postseason — will begin next week against Hurst Bell or Colleyville Heritage.
Those two District 6-5A teams are playing tonight, with the winner facing Ryan.
If Bell wins, Ryan and Bell will play at C.H. Collins. If Heritage wins, it will host Ryan in a bi-district contest at Mustang-Panther Stadium.
The Raiders still will be without senior defensive end Nolan Robinson. Robinson will be out for at least two more weeks with an undisclosed injury, Florence said.
Before that, Ryan still has plenty of items it needs to address before it begins the postseason.
Over the last few games, Ryan’s offense has struggled to score touchdowns once it gets within 20 yards of the opposing goal line. In both of Ryan’s losses, the Raider defense has allowed big plays to Coppell and Hebron, the two teams atop the 5-5A standings.
Ryan senior quarterback Mitchell Bridges said preparation wasn’t what it needed leading up to both of those games. But as the season has gone on, the team has increased its focus and matured.
“It’s very important for us to get momentum going into the playoffs and get the road to state started,” Bridges said.
Bridges will be one of the many seniors who will be playing in their final regular-season game at C.H. Collins.
They will face a Flower Mound team that’s in contention with Lewisville and Marcus for the district’s final playoff spot. Those three teams will be chasing what Ryan already has attained.
Ryan senior defensive tackle J.T. Williams said the team’s been preparing for this week all season — a week that serves as a prelude for what really counts.
“We knew sooner or later it was going to be our last week, so we’ve been practicing our hardest because it’s our last home game of the regular season,” Williams said. “We know this game’s guaranteed, but we don’t know about any after this besides the first playoff game.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.