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Football: Sanders shines as Ryan starter

Profile image for By Ben Baby / Staff Writer
By Ben Baby / Staff Writer

A two-play stretch in Friday night’s scrimmage between Ryan and Grapevine offered a glimpse into what the season could be like for Ryan freshman quarterback Spencer Sanders.

Sanders and the Raider offense traveled down the field and was eight yards away from Grapevine’s goal line when a handoff exchange involving Sanders resulted in a lost fumble.

The Raiders trudged back down the field for one more play. That’s all Sanders needed to make amends.

On the next play, Sanders lofted a deep pass to sophomore Randy Gray for a 70-yard touchdown pass and showed what could be in store for him and the Raiders this season.

Ryan coach Dave Henigan said Sanders will be the starter in the season opener Friday against Rockwall.

“I was pretty nervous,” Sanders said of the first drive. “You could see when that fumble was and I wasn’t ready for the ball. I had to make it up on that post to Randy Gray.”

Sanders and many of the young players on Ryan’s squad shined in the scrimmage at Ryan.

The teams traded series of plays during the controlled portion of the scrimmage before closing the evening with a 12-minute quarter.

Grapevine and Ryan each scored during the quarter.

Sanders hit Ryan senior receiver Jordan Murray for a 45-yard touchdown pass with 8:39 left in the scrimmage. With Ryan’s starting defensive linemen out of the contest, Grapevine scored on quarterback Sam Berry’s 6-yard run up the middle with 31.9 seconds left.

Ryan’s first-string offense scored three times during the scrimmage, with the other score coming on a quarterback sneak by senior Shomari Cann out of its short-yardage package.

Entering last week’s scrimmage against North Crowley, Sanders, Cann and junior Austin Carter were battling for the starting quarterback role.

This week, Sanders was the first-string quarterback and Carter no longer was on Ryan’s roster, as he transferred prior to the scrimmage. Cann saw plenty of snaps at quarterback on Friday, which was highlighted by a 47-yard completion during the controlled portion of the scrimmage.

Last week against North Crowley, Ryan’s first-string players scored once. Henigan said the biggest difference between the two scrimmages was the offense’s success and Ryan’s ability to make big plays.

Henigan said he was pleased with Spencer’s performance against Grapevine.

“I thought Spencer played well,” Henigan said. “We’re going to be smart with him. Truthfully, I let him pull the trigger a little bit more tonight, and I thought he did some good things and he did some things he’s got to correct. But he’s a freshman.”

Ryan’s defensive line stood out during the 12-minute quarter. Grapevine’s offense had 19 yards of negative offense in its first two drives of the scrimmage. Grapevine found success late in the scrimmage and scored on Berry’s run up the middle of the field.

“Our defensive came together as a unit and our D-line played phenomenal tonight,” Ryan senior defensive back Elijah Allen said.”

Grapevine and Ryan both feature head coaches that are trying to get familiar with their new teams. Grapevine coach Randy Jackson was Henigan’s replacement after Henigan was hired to become Ryan’s coach.

Henigan was the Grapevine head coach for five years before he replaced Joey Florence, who left Ryan after 14 years to become the Denton school district’s athletic director.

Jackson said he didn’t plan on leaving his starters on the field as long as he did during the quarter, but he wanted the Mustangs to gain a sense of rhythm.

On the other sideline, Sanders was in sync for the Raiders. Next week Sanders will make his high school debut after a good showing against Grapevine.

“It just felt good,” Sanders said. “We got better as a team. We need to keep getting better, and we need to look forward to playing Rockwall.”

BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.