Minutes before Ryan started its final regular-season game of the season, parents and players were scrambling on the turf at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex.
On senior night, Michelle Bridges frantically asked coaches where her son was before senior quarterback Mitchell Bridges returned just in time to be escorted to the middle of the field with his parents.
Ryan assistant coach John Fischer hastily threw his arm around an unaccompanied senior and walked him down the field on a night when Ryan’s seniors were honored in their final regular-season home game.
Ryan’s seniors had plenty to celebrate about on Friday night.
For the second time this season, Ryan racked up six touchdowns before halftime and rolled to 54-14 victory over Flower Mound on Friday night.
The Raiders scored two defensive touchdowns and cruised to the win behind the strength of its large senior class.
“I thought our defense played well,” Ryan head coach Joey Florence said. “I was proud of everybody tonight. This week was dedicated to the seniors, last home game here at C.H. Collins, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with them.
Ryan (7-2) finishes the season with a third-place finish in District 5-5A at 3-2. In the 5A Division II playoffs, the Raiders will face Colleyville Heritage (8-2) next at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Mustang-Panther Stadium. It will be Ryan’s 14th straight playoff appearance, all under head coach Joey Florence.
Raiders senior running back Tyrone Williams carried the ball nine times for 103 yards and three touchdowns. Junior running back Maurice Gordon had eight carries for 100 yards and a touchdown, and senior linebacker Cole Carpenter returned an interception for a 98-yard touchdown.
Flower Mound senior quarterback Connor Wanhanen mostly played in the first half and was most effective with his feet. Wanhanen led the Jaguars (2-8) with 61 rushing yards, but he completed only 6 of 16 passes for 92 yards and two interceptions.
All week, the focus was on Ryan’s senior class that helped carry the Raiders to another playoff appearance.
Earlier this year, senior defensive back Paul Hunter dreamed of having his mother walk him down on the field on senior night.
But Hunter’s mother, Susan Wallace, died of breast cancer in early October. Hunter’s older sister, Carmen Wallace, walked him down the field as his name blared over the speakers at C.H. Collins and he joined his fellow seniors.
“When we buried her, I took that as my walk with her,” Hunter said.
The Ryan coaching staff said every year there’s a small handful of seniors who don’t have a parent to walk them down the field for various reasons. That’s when a coach or somebody else close to that senior escorts them down the field.
“Sometimes you’re working shift two or three, and parents can’t give up shift two or three,” Ryan assistant head coach Kris Slivocka said.
Just outside the Ryan locker room, there was a cluster of parents waiting for their kids’ names to be called before the start of the game. Some seniors had coaches, some had parents, and some had others who stood with them as they faced the home bleachers for their final regular-season game.
“I just think it shows them how much love everybody has for them,” Michelle Bridges said. “Whether it’s a coach walking out with them or what, we all are there for them no matter what. And I think it pumps them up for the game and everything.”
The Raiders notched the easy victory on a very cool night, a night Ryan’s senior class won’t forget anytime soon.
“It’s a big night for those kids,” Florence said. “We’re a family here, no matter what the circumstances are. It’s always a great night, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.
Ryan 54, Flower Mound 14
DR — Tyrone Williams 3 run (Marc Orozco kick)
DR — Tyrone Williams 21 run (Marc Orozco kick)
DR — Xavier Gray 34 pass from Mitchell Bridges (Marc Orozco kick)
DR — Cole Carpenter 98 interception return (Marc Orozco kick)
DR — Tyrone Williams 8 run (Marc Orozco kick)
DR — Maurice Gordon 66 run (Marc Orozco kick)
FM — Hunter Huddleston 10 pass from John Hofmeister (Andrew Hitscherich kick)
DR — Shomari Cann 2 run (kick failed)
FM — Daniel DeLorimiere 26 run (Andrew Hitscherich kick)
DR — Sione Byrd 30 fumble return (Marc Orozco kick failed)
Rushing — DR: Tyrone Williams 9-103, Maurice Gordon 8-100, Cameron Williams 7-26, Mitchell Bridges 2-22, Shomari Cann 8-20, Paul Hunter 1-4, Ben Kimbrough 1-1, Team Stat 2--4, FL: Connor Wanhanen 18-61, John Hofmeister 6-50, LaJohn Williams 5-45, Patrick Saul 4-36, Daniel DeLorimiere 1-26, Michael Smith 2-16, Hunter Huddleston 1-6, James Rosenkranz 1-6, John Cohen 1-4, John Wilson 1-2, Travis Pavao 1-1, Jeremiah Hogue 2--1, Jay Flores 1--3, Sam Pelham 1--6.
Passing — DR: Mitchell Bridges 4-6-0-53, Shomari Cann 1-1-0-40, FL: Connor Wanhanen 6-16-2-92, John Hofmeister 1-1-0-10.
Receiving — DR: Xavier Gray 2-43, Wesley Ellis 1-40, Trent Willis 2-10, FL: Logan Davis 3-34, Matt Pokorney 1-20, Clayton Johnson 1-20, Thomas Jeffries 1-18, Hunter Huddleston 1-10.