Keller Fossil Ridge scored 31 points before Ryan could even pick up a first down in Saturday afternoon’s Class 5A Division II regional semifinal. What occurred after that point, which came late in the second quarter, seemed unfathomable.
Ryan pulled off the largest comeback in school history to defeat Fossil Ridge 42-37 at Apogee Stadium.
After scoring the game’s first 31 points, Fossil Ridge was held scoreless until the final play of the game.
“I don’t think we’ve ever played that poorly,” Ryan coach Joey Florence said. “I thought we were outcoached. I thought they outplayed us in the first half. To be that far behind and come back, that says a lot about these kids. I’m so proud of them.”
Ryan is one of eight teams remaining in the 5A Division II playoffs, while Fossil Ridge is eliminated from the postseason.
The Raiders (10-2) advance to face Cedar Hill (11-2) in the Region I final next week. As of Saturday evening, a time and location had not been determined for the rematch of last season’s area-round contest.
Prior to Saturday, Ryan had lost two straight playoff games against Fossil Ridge, with the last loss coming in a 2007 5A Division II bi-district game.
Ryan seemingly was headed to another defeat after the game’s first 21 minutes.
The Raiders didn’t pick up a first down until junior running back Maurice Gordon’s 14-yard carry with 2:18 left in the first half.
On the final drive of the half, the Raiders scored on a 1-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Mitchell Bridges, nine seconds before halftime.
“It gave us a chance,” Florence said. “I don’t think we realized it. It was pretty gloom-and-doom there at halftime. It gave us a chance to get them at the end.”
Bridges completed 19 of 27 passes for 201 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
He added two 1-yard touchdown runs and a 2-yard touchdown run. His second rushing touchdown gave Ryan a 34-31 lead with 3:56 left.
Bridges said the second half felt like a new game. After the Ryan coaching staff told the team to remain persistent, the Raiders erased the 31-point deficit.
“It starts with the coaches,” Bridges said. “Our coaches never let us doubt ourselves. They build us up, even if we’re doing awful. We turned it around and made good adjustments at halftime.”
After scoring at the end of the first half, Ryan didn’t score again until the 2:21 mark of the third quarter. Senior wide receiver Trent Willis hauled in an 18-yard touchdown pass from Bridges.
On the ensuing two-point conversion, Willis jumped, caught the ball and slipped his toes in bounds to cut the lead to 31-15 heading into the fourth quarter.
Willis finished with six catches for 61 yards and two touchdowns. Senior receiver Xavier Gray had a team-high eight catches for 100 yards. Gray and Willis each had fourth-quarter scores that set up Bridges’ go-ahead touchdown.
Last week, Waco Midway led Ryan by 13 points at halftime.
“We’re just a second-half team,” Willis said. “The last two weeks, we’ve been down in the first half. We just kept believing in the Raider magic, and we just came out there and did our work.”
Prior to Fossil Ridge’s final drive, the Panthers gained only 30 yards in the second half. After Bridges put Ryan ahead late, a slew of sacks by Ryan’s defensive line forced a turnover on downs and Bridges scored again to seal the victory.
“This is probably the best game of my life,” Ryan senior defensive lineman J.T. Williams said. “I’m just happy to win it and advance.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.
Ryan 42, Keller Fossil Ridge 37
Keller Fossil Ridge
FR — Anthony Smith 4 run (Cody Seidel kick)
FR — Ryan Parker 4 pass from Jacob Gnacinski (Cody Seidel kick)
FR — Cody Seidel 26 FG
FR — Niron Fields 8 pass from Jacob Gnacinski (Cody Seidel kick)
FR — Niron Fields 10 pass from Jacob Gnacinski (Cody Seidel kick)
DR — Mitchell Bridges 1 run (Marc Orozco kick)
DR — Trent Willis 18 pass from Mitchell Bridges (Trent Willis pass from Mitchell Bridges)
DR — Xavier Gray 38 pass from Mitchell Bridges (run failed)
DR — Trent Willis 25 pass from Mitchell Bridges (kick failed)
DR — Mitchell Bridges 2 run (Marc Orozco kick)
DR — Mitchell Bridges 1 run (Mitchell Bridges run)
FR — Ryan Parker 10 pass from Jacob Gnacinski
Rushing — DR: Tyrone Williams 16-69, Mitchell Bridges 24-57, Maurice Gordon 5-18, Xavier Gray 1-5, FR: Keshawn Mitchell 6-30, Cameron Castleberry 1-23, Jacob Gnacinski 16-17, Ryan Parker 3-8, Anthony Smith 2-4, Team Stat 1--5.
Passing — DR: Mitchell Bridges 19-27-1-201, FR: Jacob Gnacinski 20-30-0-268.
Receiving — DR: Xavier Gray 8-100, Trent Willis 6-61, Tyrone Williams 1-20, Matthew Wagganer 1-9, Jordan Murray 2-7, Preston Compton 1-4, FR: Ryan Parker 5-98, Keshawn Mitchell 10-94, Cameron Castleberry 1-46, Niron Fields 2-18, Andrew Abrego 2-12.