FLOWER MOUND — In a season as tumultuous as this one, it was only fitting that the final victory of the Ryan Raiders’ season was sealed on the last play of its District 5-5A game against Flower Mound.
As a final, last-ditch heave by Flower Mound’s Matt Hirst fell hopelessly incomplete, the Raiders could finally exhale after holding their breath for the nine-game season.
Ryan picked up the 24-17 victory against Flower Mound on Friday night.
Ryan advances to the Class 5A Division II playoffs, while Flower Mound’s season ended with the loss. The Raiders will face Hurst L.D. Bell next Saturday at Arlington’s Cowboys Stadium.The game is tentatively scheduled for 5 p.m.
“It feels real good knowing we accomplished what we’ve been going for all year,” Ryan junior quarterback Mitchell Bridges said. “All the obstacles we had to go through, it made us better by the end of the year.”
Mitchell Bridges went 10-of-14 passing for 154 yards and a touchdown. He also had 40 yards rushing and a score in his first game back since suffering a knee injury against Lewisville two weeks ago. Bridges wore a bulky, black brace on his right knee, where he said he suffered a sprained MCL.
Tyrone Williams had 13 carries for 114 yards to lead Ryan’s rushing attack in the win. Flower Mound receiver Cole McKeel had eight catches for 56 yards and a touchdown in the loss for the Jaguars (3-7, 1-4 District 5-5A).
Ryan (5-4, 3-2) didn’t need a win against Flower Mound in the final game of the regular season.
As morbid as it sounds, the Raiders only needed to lose by 12 points or less to the Jaguars in order to make the playoffs for the 13th straight year.
“The [playoff] streak wasn’t about me — it was about these kids,” Ryan head coach Joey Florence said. “But I am proud of our tradition at Ryan High School. These seniors, I’m proud of them and what they’ve done.”
On second-and-goal at the Flower Mound 10, against the wind that had whipped across Neal Wilson Stadium, Ryan’s Maurice Gordon took a handoff and bounced off a few tackles and rolled over a defender and into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Bridges came up with a key third-down play on Ryan’s game-winning drive.
On third-and-14, against the wind nobody dared to pass into all night, Bridges dodged oncoming attackers, maintained his ground and found senior wide receiver Kevin Ray open in the middle of the field for an 18-yard completion and the first down.
“It felt like a good five minutes,” Bridges said of the completion. “It felt like I was back there forever.
Bridges had another big pass to junior wide receiver Robert Conner for 18 yards, setting up Gordon for the game’s deciding score.
Flower Mound didn’t attempt a punt all night. Instead, it converted on 7-of-9 fourth downs but couldn’t get the points it needed to reach the postseason.
Going against the wind in the first quarter, the opening 12 minutes of the game was far from kind to the Raiders as they trailed 10-0. Ryan cut the deficit with a touchdown to start the second quarter and scored another key touchdown right before halftime.
On second-and-10 from the Jaguars’ 11, Bridges threw a high, arcing pass to junior wide receiver Trent Willis, who hadn’t even looked over his shoulder for the pass headed toward the right corner of the end zone.
Flower Mound’s Derrick Erb looked before Willis. The pass deflected off Erb’s hands, and Willis dived and plucked the ball out of the air before it hit the turf, giving Ryan a 14-10 lead going into the break.
Ryan never trailed again. The Jaguars tied the score in the fourth quarter before Gordon’s rushing touchdown late in the game.
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Ryan 24, Flower Mound$17
FM — Caleb Brake 11 pass from Connor Wanhanen (Andrew Hitscherich kick)
FM — Andrew Hitscherich 32 FG
R — Mitchell Bridges 4 run (Marc Orozco kick)
R — Trent Willis 11 pass from Mitchell Bridges (Marc Orozco kick)
R — Marc Orozco 25 FG
FM — Cole McKeel 6 pass from Connor Wanhanen (Andrew Hitscherich kick)
DR — Maurice Gordon 10 run (Marc Orozco kick)
Rushing — R: Tyrone Williams 13-114, Mitchell Bridges 16-40, Maurice Gordon 9-26, Reynal Caldwell 2-17, FM: Brendon Ianiero 1-38, Cole McKeel 7-29, Connor Wanhanen 15-19, Finn Foster 1-7, Matt Hirst 2-4, Stat Team 1--8.
Passing — R: Mitchell Bridges 10-14-0 154, FM: Connor Wanhanen 24-38-1 223, Matt Hirst 2-5-0 29, Caleb Brake 0-1-0 0.
Receiving — R: Trent Willis 5-91, Robert Conner 1-18, Kevin Ray Jr. 1-18, Reynal Caldwell 2-16, Daniel Telaneus 1-11, FM: Cole McKeel 8-56, Caleb Brake 4-46, Finn Foster 3-44, Brendon Ianiero 5-42, Jett Meenach 3-33, LaJohn Williams 2-21, Michael Smith 1-10.