FLOWER MOUND — The cheers from the Ryan bleachers said all that needed to be said.
As Ryan and Flower Mound Marcus walked off the field after the final whistle, those who traveled to Marauder Stadium chanted “Two hundred!” in adoration of the Raiders’ head coach.
Ryan scored 13 unanswered points for a 13-10 win over Marcus and giving Joey Florence his 200th career victory as a head coach. It was the District 5-5A opener for both schools.
When the Ryan marching band chanted his career win total again, Florence turned around, waved and meekly smiled before he addressed his team.
“The people here [at Ryan] have always been unbelievable,” Florence said. “I appreciate what they did, but I’m more happy that we won this game because I love these kids.”
Ryan avoided a loss in its district opener, a loss that would have crippled the Raiders (5-0) chances of gaining the best playoff seed they could attain.
But instead, it was Florence and the machine he’s commanded for the past 14 years that came away with the win.
The turning point of the game came with 4:07 left in the game.
Ryan senior defensive end Nolan Robinson came off the line of scrimmage toward Marcus sophomore quarterback Andrew Parish. Parish never saw Robinson coming.
Robinson ran through Parish’s back and knocked him to the ground. Robinson rolled over, picked up the football, and Ryan’s offense stepped back onto the field for the game-winning drive.
“Nolan, he just did what he always does,” Ryan senior defensive tackle J.T. Williams said. “He hustled to the ball, picked up the fumble, and we knew we were going to win.”
Ryan senior quarterback Mitchell Bridges found Xavier Gray for a 17-yard touchdown with 2:11 left in the game for Ryan’s only lead.
Marcus’ Jon Coppens attempted a 57-yard field goal with 27 seconds left, but the kick fluttered in the air and fell well short.
Ryan started out poorly and Marcus took full advantage. On the first drive of the game, the Raiders drove down to the Marcus 2-yard line, but a holding penalty negated a rushing touchdown by Tyrone Williams. Two plays later, Mitchell Bridges tried to find a receiver in the right corner of the end zone but was intercepted.
On the next drive, Ryan made it down to the Marcus 22-yard line, but kicker Marc Orozco missed a 41-yard field-goal attempt wide left. Orozco missed another kick from the same distance and in the same manner in the second half.
The Raiders trailed at halftime for the first time this season and didn’t score in a half for the first time as Marcus (1-5) led 10-0.
“I don’t think we started slow as much as I think Marcus played their tail off,” Florence said. “They outcoached us a little bit. And we just made some mental mistakes.”
It was Parish’s first start as the varsity quarterback. The sophomore was moved up in the middle of the week to replace Taylor Gibbs, who came back out for Marcus’ final possession of the game.
The Marauders were also without starting running back Mark Demery, who suffered a concussion last week and watched the game from the press box.
Ryan limited the Marauders to only 77 total yards in the second half.
As Florence spoke to the team, he received a bevy of gifts.
There were the red shirts that said “Got 200?” on the front and “Flo Does” on the back. There were the white towels, the commemorative photo signed by his team but missing the exact date of his 200th win and a white banner held up by two people.
There was also a hand-written letter from Texas head coach Mack Brown. The letter, written with black marker on burnt orange paper, was read by First Baptist Church of Denton pastor Jeff Williams as Florence held one of his daughters and listened.
“I don’t think Coach Flo would have it any other way to have a game like this for his 200th win,” Ryan offensive coordinator Conroy Hines said. “When we’re behind, adversity, all the things he preaches to our kids happens in the first half, and then our kids find a way to win in the second half.”
Before his team dispersed, Florence closed his postgame speech with a final statement.
“You’ll remember this game for the rest of your lives,” Florence said.
It will also be a game the 47-year old coach will never forget.
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.
Ryan 13, Flower Mound Marcus 10
FM — Jon Coppens 36 FG
FM — Nate Hopkins 1 run (Jon Coppens kick)
DR — Trent Willis 26 pass from Mitchell Bridges (Marc Orozco kick blocked)
DR — Xavier Gray 17 pass from Mitchell Bridges (Marc Orozco kick)
Rushing — DR: Mitchell Bridges 15-102, Maurice Gordon 6-34, Tyrone Williams 13-32, Team Stat 1--2, FM: Nate Hopkins 23-78, Cade Erwin 5-13, John Hutcherson 3-12, Andrew Parish 4-11, Mason Ferguson 1-2, Team Stat 1--1.
Passing — DR: Mitchell Bridges 13-16-1-177, FM: Andrew Parish 5-10-0-52, Alex Welch 1-1-0-11, Taylor Gibbs 1-1-0-5.
Receiving — DR: Trent Willis 8-111, Xavier Gray 3-38, Paul Hunter 1-24, Matthew Wagganer 1-4, FM: Cade Erwin 3-28, Kaden Smith 2-25, Blake Bowling 1-8, Jack Cushing 1-7.