In a playoff run filled with unbelievable victories, Ryan ran out of magic against Cedar Hill.
The Raiders couldn’t erase a 23-point halftime deficit, and the Cedar Hill Longhorns held on for the 52-29 victory in the Class 5A Division II Region I final on Monday at Apogee Stadium.
For the second straight season, the Longhorns knocked Ryan out of the playoffs. The Raiders finish the season with a 10-3 record and tied the school’s deepest run in the 5A playoffs. It was also the school’s second 10-win season in seven years in 5A.
“It always hurts when you lose, but there’s no dishonor,” Ryan head coach Joey Florence said. “We lost to a good football team tonight. Our kids didn’t quit again. We spotted them, I don’t know, 20-something points going into halftime. The kids played really well in the second half.
“There wasn’t no quit in these kids, and that’s all I ever ask of them.”
Last week, Ryan erased a 31-0 nothing deficit against Keller Fossil Ridge and pulled off a stunning comeback at Apogee Stadium.
Cedar Hill (12-2) scored the game’s first 23 points, but Ryan chipped away at the lead and was within eight points of tying the game in the third quarter.
The Longhorns’ rushing attack stifled Ryan’s momentum throughout the contest.
Cedar Hill gained 438 yards on the ground. Junior running back Aca’cedric Ware carried the ball 15 times for 170 yards and one touchdown, while senior running back Larry Hill had 19 carries for 127 yards and four touchdowns.
But Hill had a key error that put Ryan back in the contest. On fourth-and-1 at the Cedar Hill 20-yard line, Hill fumbled after he gained the first down. Ryan senior defensive back Paul Hunter recovered the ball and returned it for a 22-yard touchdown with 9:49 left in the third quarter.
“Paul’s a great player,” Ryan senior defensive tackle J.T. Williams said. “He took it to the house, and it gave us a lot of momentum and got our hopes up that we were going to come back and win.”
In the third quarter, Cedar Hill senior offensive tackle Jarod Branch was taken off the field on a stretcher after Ryan picked up a fourth-down stop. Branch flashed a thumbs-up to the crowd that cheered after about 10 uneasy minutes.
On the next play, Ryan senior quarterback Mitchell Bridges launched a deep pass for senior wide receiver Trent Willis. Willis caught the ball and backpedaled a few steps for a 64-yard touchdown reception.
Ryan converted the two-point conversion, and the Raiders trailed 23-15 with 5:35 left in the third quarter. After only one catch in the first half, Willis finished the game with seven catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns.
“We didn’t get him the ball in the first half, and that’s on us,” Florence said. “We gotta get that guy the ball.”
But Cedar Hill countered with 29 of the game’s next 44 points to seal the win.
After the game, Ryan players walked past the ice bunched up at the edges of the field into a relatively silent locker room.
Bridges, a two-year starter who completed 13 of 20 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns against Cedar Hill, played his final game along with 50 other seniors.
“I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat,” Bridges said. “This is the last time we’ll all play together. I grew up with a bunch of these kids, and ever since little league, we’ve been playing together. Now we won’t ever get to play again.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.
Cedar Hill 52, Denton Ryan 29
CH — Damarkus Lodge 28 run (kick failed)
CH — Larry Hill 44 run (Brooks Ralph kick)
CH — Larry Hill 1 run (Brooks Ralph kick)
CH — Brooks Ralph 38 FG
DR — Paul Hunter 22 fumble return (Marc Orozco kick)
DR — Trent Willis 64 pass from Mitchell Bridges (Xavier Gray run)
CH — Damarkus Lodge 39 run (Avery Davis run)
DR — Mitchell Bridges 1 run (Trent Willis pass from Mitchell Bridges)
CH — Larry Hill 1 run (Brooks Ralph kick)
CH — Larry Hill 6 run (Brooks Ralph kick)
CH — Aca’cedric Ware 22 run (Brooks Ralph kick)
DR — Trent Willis 2 pass from Mitchell Bridges (pass failed)
Rushing — CH: Aca’cedric Ware 15-170, Larry Hill 19-127, Damarkus Lodge 3-66, Denvre Daniels 8-36, Justin McMillan 6-29, Peter Lewis 2-12, Team Stat 1--2, DR: Tyrone Williams 15-54, Mitchell Bridges 17-25, Maurice Gordon 2-7.
Passing — CH: Justin McMillan 5-9-0-79, DR: Mitchell Bridges 13-20-0-191.
Receiving — CH: Damarkus Lodge 3-48, Larry Hill 1-21, Devon Murdock 1-10, DR: Trent Willis 7-146, Xavier Gray 3-17, Tyrone Williams 1-16, Preston Compton 1-7, Jordan Murray 1-5.