When Guyer and Ryan renew their crosstown rivalry tonight, one team will look to wrap up a dominating run in District 5-6A before turning its attention to the postseason. The other will play for nothing more than pride.
Ryan’s 14-year playoff streak ended Thursday night when Justin Northwest beat Keller. The Raiders (5-4, 3-3 district) were eliminated based on their head-to-head record against the remaining playoff field, making tonight’s game at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex the first meeting in the series since 2007 that doesn’t involve two playoff teams.
“These kids are going to want to be the ones to put their chest up around town when the game is over,” Guyer coach John Walsh said. “The chance to beat Ryan doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not we knock them out of the playoffs. We want to win every week, and in the confines of Denton ISD, we want to be at the top — period. We will come out with a killer instinct like we always do, and we expect a great game from Ryan.”
This likely is not the way most fans saw the long-awaited game — the last meeting was in 2009 — setting up at the beginning of the year. Guyer and Ryan have four state titles and eight championship game appearances between them. Entering this year, the Raiders hadn’t missed the postseason since 1999 while Guyer, ranked 10th in The Associated Press’ Class 6A poll, won back-to-back Class 4A titles and hasn’t lost since its opener against No. 1 Allen.
While Guyer (8-1, 6-0) has a chance to run the table in district play for the first time in the state’s largest classification, the Raiders’ turnover woes — they have 22 — have prevented them from controlling their playoff fate.
After starting 2-2, Ryan rattled off three district wins in a row and was solid in the standings before dropping its last two, including last week’s 62-34 loss to Northwest. In those two losses, they had a combined seven fumbles.
“It adds to the game,” Ryan coach Dave Henigan said this week of the potential playoff implications. “Once the whistle blows, I’m not sure any of that matters, though.
“Anytime you have two schools in the same district and the same town, there’s bound to be a rivalry. These teams haven’t played in a long time, but both have had success. They [Guyer] have had more this season and are understandably the favorite, but our kids will embrace the role they have and go out there trying to win.”
Walsh said Ryan is the scariest team Guyer has faced in the district. Ryan has the second-most rushing yards among district opponents behind Guyer with an average of just more than 251 yards through nine games. A stout offensive line anchored by David Bolisomi and Dakota Laws has paved the way for Ryan to run up its average. Running back Maurice Gordon has 1,113 rushing yards while Tyreke Davis is averaging 9.2 yards per carry.
“We believe if we keep running the football, we will be successful,” Gordon said.
That formula spells trouble for the Guyer defense, which Walsh admitted has difficulties stopping the run. In their last two games, the Wildcats have given up just more than 227 rushing yards per contest. It doesn’t help that they’ll be without Carl Thompson, a defensive end who has committed to Kansas, and possibly linebacker Michael Carrillo. Combine that with run-stuffing safety and Iowa State commit Jordan Wallace being hampered by injury, and Guyer is potentially without three top players.
“We’re just taking it one game at a time, and Ryan happens to be next,” Carrillo said. “They are just another team in the way of the bigger prize.”
The Wildcats have yet to face a district opponent that is this dedicated to the run game, but they likely also haven’t faced a team with as many turnover issues.
“You watch, though, they won’t fumble a single time against us and they’ll probably play their best game of the year,” Walsh said. “When you watch film on them, they scare us personnel-wise. We haven’t been disciplined on defense all year, so we can’t hang our hat on our run defense right now.”
While the Wildcats are struggling defensively, they make up for it with one of the top offenses in 6A. Guyer entered the week No. 1 in total yards in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with just more than 538 yards per game. The team is averaging nearly 298 rushing yards per game and is particularly tough to defend because it combines that running game with a quick-strike passing attack that averages just more than 241 yards.
Quarterback Shawn Robinson has accounted for 38 Guyer touchdowns, with 1,023 rushing yards and 2,006 passing yards. The trio of David Haynes, Alex Honey and Adam Scott has combined for 1,732 receiving yards.
“They can hurt you both ways, and that quarterback is special,” Henigan said. “We have to win the turnover war; we have to control the ball and keep their offense on the sideline. Big plays aren’t going to help us against Guyer. We need to sustain long drives.”
STEVE GAMEL can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @NewspaperSteve.