The referees may have thrown their arms upward to signal touchdowns Friday night, but the scoreboard didn’t change in Ryan’s scrimmage against North Crowley.
The coaches on both sidelines were raspy by the end of the night, with North Crowley’s team cheering the loudest when the two teams congratulated each other after the first scrimmage for both schools.
The Panthers scored twice, Ryan scored once and the Raider coaching staff evaluated the players who will be on the field in a couple of weeks for a season opener against Rockwall.
“We got better tonight,” Ryan coach Dave Henigan said. “I was proud of the way the kids competed. We have a lot of kids that have to grow up, and they have to grow up fast. But all in all it was positive.”
The teams traded off sets of plays in the first part of the scrimmage, pulling different players from the depth chart off the sidelines and onto the Ryan practice field. The scrimmage wrapped up with one 12-minute quarter, during which North Crowley scored a touchdown.
Ryan’s starters didn’t see much of the field during the quarter. Ryan senior running back Maurice Gordon, one of the team’s key returning starters, saw limited action on the night.
Ryan started the scrimmage with freshman Spencer Sanders at quarterback, and senior Shomari Cann and junior Austin Carter followed. All three quarterbacks shared snaps as Henigan and the staff continue to seek out a starting quarterback for the start of the season.
Henigan said he didn’t open up the playbook too much in the glorified practice. The first-year Ryan head coach said he didn’t want to confuse the quarterbacks early on and he only wanted to keep the playbook ajar before swinging it open for the season opener.
“For us it’s a practice,” Henigan said. “We want to compete. We want to get after it — don’t get me wrong. But we don’t want to tip our hand, either. We’re preparing for Rockwall, not North Crowley or Grapevine.
“We didn’t show a whole lot. We have a lot more.”
Ryan’s biggest play of the night was a 53-yard pass from Cann to senior Jordan Murray, which sent a full set of bleachers filled mostly with Ryan fans into cheers. Cann ran the ball in a few plays later for a score.
North Crowley’s biggest play came before the quarter. Senior quarterback Given Tippens-Hill hit senior Avery Lewis on a deep crossing pattern. Lewis broke through a couple of tackles and ran uncontested into the end zone.
North Crowley coach Eugene Rogers made his first trip back to Ryan on Friday night. Rogers was a Raider assistant coach for four years before he left for Haltom in 2012 to become the defensive coordinator. A year later, he was named the Panthers’ head coach.
Rogers said he was wanted to test his program against the Raiders, and that his squad carried out the task.
“We had a very disappointing season last year,” Rogers said. “I wanted to measure ourselves against a great program that [former Ryan head coach Joey] Florence built. I knew this would be a measuring stick for our program and our kids would be prepared for this. They stepped up to the challenge.”
Both coaching staffs were required to break up a small brouhaha early in the scrimmage. A scuffle broke out near the Ryan sideline. Ryan coaches quickly jumped in as the players left the sidelines, before North Crowley coaches and Ryan coaches corralled their respective players.
“It’s a learning deal,” Henigan said. “I don’t want to make it a bigger deal than it is, but I don’t ever want to see it again. We want to play hard through the whistles and then get back to the huddle. We don’t ever want to get off the sidelines.”
Ryan senior Tristan Brown said that while he’s ready for the opener against Rockwall on Aug. 29, he knows there’s plenty of room to grow before the final scrimmage against Grapevine on Friday.
“I feel like next week we’ll have more figured out,” Brown said. “We’ll get stronger as the week goes on.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.