ARLINGTON — There were a few times Saturday night at Cowboys Stadium when the right leg of Ryan junior Marc Orozco was shaky.
There was his 13-yard punt and his 21-yard punt, efforts far worse than his 32- and 35-yard punts.
And then, when Ryan needed it the most, Orozco’s right leg sent Ryan to the next round of the playoffs.
Orozco’s 43-yard field goal with 2:24 left lifted Ryan to a 31-28 over Hurst L.D. Bell in a Class 5A Division II bi-district playoff game. The Raiders will play Cedar Hill next Saturday at 2 p.m. at Southlake Carroll.
“He better be glad because he was fixing to walk back to Denton — you can put that in the paper,” Ryan head coach Joey Florence said. “He better be glad he made that one because he’s the best kicker in the state of Texas and I had never doubted him for a minute.”
Daniel Telaneus scooped the snap off the ground and Orozco’s kick smoothly sailed through the uprights, the final three points in a game where both teams traded points like two fighters who don’t have knockout power.
Ryan (6-4) pulled ahead midway through the fourth quarter when quarterback Mitchell Bridges, playing on an injured right knee, lofted a pass toward junior wide receiver Trent Willis. Willis jumped and completely spun around in midair, fended off a Bell defender for the ball and tiptoed his way into the end zone.
“I threw it up, gave him a chance to fight for it, and like always he comes down with it,” Bridges said.
Bell quickly answered on the next drive when Ryan Newsome took a draw up the middle and outran Ryan’s defense for the 46-yard touchdown to tie the game with 2:24 left.
After Orozco’s kick, Bell had one final drive to tie the game or end the Raiders’ season with a touchdown.
But Ryan’s defense held. Senior Desmond Oliver and junior J.T. Williams swarmed quarterback Colson Romano in the backfield on fourth down and he fumbled, sealing the win.
“They’re a good team,” Oliver said. “We gave it our all. Two evenly matched teams, and we came up with the win.”
Bridges completed 14 of 23 passes for 157 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Bell’s Romano completed 11 of 19 passes for 153 yards and a touchdown.
Ryan didn’t commit any turnovers and forced two turnovers by Bell (7-4). One was a fumble in the first quarter that the Raiders turned into seven points, the other the last fumble by Romano.
Throughout the week at practice, Orozco said he imagined himself underneath the giant scoreboard at Cowboys Stadium, kicking a field goal with the game on the line.
When his imagined scenario became a reality, he came through when it mattered most.
“I was just thinking in my head that I need to get all that noise out of my head and just do what I do every day at practice.” Orozco said of his thoughts before the field goal. “It’s routine. I got it down.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
Ryan 31, Hurst L.D. Bell 28
B — J.T. Vines 1 run (Nate Kelley kick), 6:42
R — Trent Willis 4 pass from Mitchell Bridges (Marc Orozco kick), 3:28
R — Tyrone Williams 2 run (Orozco kick), 1:28
B — Vines 5 run (Kelley kick), 2:23
R — Reynal Caldwell 23 run (Orozco kick), 2:06
B — Aaron Dixon 26 pass from Colson Romano (Kelley kick), :30
R — Trent Willis 30 pass from Bridges (Orozco kick), 7:49
B — Ryan Newsome 46 run (Kelley kick), 5:19
R — Orozco 43 kick, 2:24
Rushing — R: Mitchell Bridges 17-39, Tyrone Williams 11-19, Reynal Caldwell 5-76, Maurice Gordon 5-37, Cole Carpenter 1-(-2). B: J.T. Vines 11-54, Ryan Newsome 9-68, Nathan Gillard 4-32, Bryan James 7-18, Colson Romano 4-(-6).
Passing — R: Mitchell Bridges 14-23-0 157. B: Colson Romano 11-19-0 153, Aaron Dixon 0-1-0 0.
Receiving — R: Trent Willis 5-67, Xavier Gray 3-20, Robert Conner 1-33, Daniel Telaneus 1-0, Kevin Ray 4-37. B: Aaron Dixon 4-50, Aaron Molder 1-14, Ryan Newsome 1-6, Keli Bol 2-46, Bryan James 2-34, Nathan Gillard 1-3.