In a game when Ryan needs all the able bodies it can get, the Raiders once again will receive the services of one of their key players.
Junior quarterback Mitchell Bridges will be back this week for Ryan’s final regular-season game against Flower Mound.
Both teams enter Friday night’s matchup vying for the last District 5-5A playoff spot. The Raiders can still make the playoffs if they lose by less than 13 points.
Bridges left in the third quarter of Ryan’s 28-24 victory over Lewisville on Oct. 26 with a right knee injury. He was not available for last week’s game against Coppell, a 21-3 Raider loss.
Following Tuesday’s practice, Bridges had a bag of ice taped around his recovering leg.
“Right now I’m at 70-75 percent,” Bridges said. “I’ll be at 100 by Friday.”
Three players — Bridges, junior Preston Compton and senior Kevin Ray — have started at least once this season for the Raiders.
Bridges suffered a fractured fibula in Ryan’s opener against Corsicana. He finished the game and got the win, but he went on to miss the next three games before coming back for the 5-5A opener against Flower Mound Marcus.
The junior was knocked out on the first drive of the second half against Lewisville. With Compton out because of illness and Xavier Gray out with an ankle injury, Ray stepped in to lead the Raiders to the win.
Ryan head coach Joey Florence said Gray, a starting wide receiver, is day-to-day. Florence said Compton will be available against the Jaguars (3-6, 1-3 district) along with wide receiver Daniel Telaneus. Telaneus missed last week’s game because of concussion-like symptoms.
Florence said Ryan, the smallest school in terms of enrollment in Class 5A Region I, has had problems similar to other teams but has continued to push through them.
“We’re playing a lot of schools that are bigger than us,” Florence said. “Everybody has adversity, so we certainly don’t expect people to feel for sorry for us, but I think we’ve battled all year long. I think Mitchell’s resembling that.”
Including the Lewisville game, Ryan (4-4, 2-2) has won three of the four games Bridges has started. Bridges has completed three of Ryan’s eight games.
With all the injuries at quarterback, not to mention the injuries to Gray and Telaneus, Florence said the amount of wounded players has crippled Ryan’s offense.
“It’s just been tough to get into any kind of rhythm offensively because of the injuries,” Florence said.
Last week was the second time this season the offense failed to score a touchdown. The other occurrence came in Bridges’ start against Hebron.
Junior wide receiver Trent Willis said that last week against Coppell the Raiders were capable of putting more than three points on the board.
“I felt like we could have played a lot better than we did,” Willis said. “We made a lot of mistakes offensively and should have corrected it.”
Willis also said Bridges’ return brings more than his ability to make plays with his arm and injured legs.
“Mitchell’s a natural leader,” Willis said. “He leads the team through everything he tells us, and he encourages us in practice. He’s the type that will get into you when you’re not working. He will get in your business.”
As Bridges took his pads off and slashed the bag of ice on his knee open, spilling a slushy mix of ice and water onto the floor, the 5-9, 185-pound junior was asked if the injury will affect his slide-avoiding, collision-welcoming style of play.
“I don’t think it will have anything to do with it,” Bridges said. “I think it will be good.”
BEN BABY can be reached 940-566-6869. His e-mail address email@example.com.