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Football: Raiders look to slow down Birdville in area-round battle

Ryan, the No. 3 Class 5A team in the state, has been consistent all year. But many would argue the Raiders are playing some of their best and most complete football right now.

Coach Dave Henigan said the same thing about Birdville, Ryan's area-round opponent.

Ryan (11-0) will face Birdville (5-6) at 3 p.m. Friday at Saginaw High School.

"[Birdville's] record is misleading," Henigan said. "They struggled early and lost to Colleyville Heritage, but I think they're playing their best football right now. They have two really good running backs and an offensive line that is good. And they play good defense, too.

"They do things that can bother us if we aren't careful or prepared."

Birdville is one of four Dallas-Fort Worth area teams — the others were Rockwall, Dallas Kimball and Trophy Club Nelson — to finish at or below .500 in the regular season and win a first-round playoff game. The Hawks beat previously-unbeaten Fort Worth South Hills 43-0 last week, giving them four wins in their past five games. They opened the year 1-5. 

Look for Birdville to do what most teams will likely do moving forward against Ryan — run the ball. The Hawks rushed for 313 yards last week behind a steady performance from Laderrious Mixon, who accounted for 181 yards and three touchdowns by himself.

Damian Morrell rushed for 112 yards. Meanwhile, South Hills was held to 126 total yards.

Mixon has rushed for 1,211 yards and 21 touchdowns. Morrell has 507 yards and two scores. 

"They will want to establish the run for sure," Henigan said. "We'll have to play good defense."

Defensively, Henigan said Birdville has shown a tendency to blitz a lot and is similar to Fort Worth Brewer, Ryan's opponent last week. At least early on, Brewer's plan worked as Ryan's offense mustered less than 200 yards by halftime. But with a 14-3 lead, Ryan went on to score on its first four possessions after halftime. 

Spencer Sanders threw for 159 yards and two touchdowns while adding 149 yards and another score on the ground. Emani Bailey chipped in 87 rushing yards and a touchdown, and Gabriel Douglas scored twice off a receiving touchdown and 53-yard punt return.

"It's one of those feast or famine deals where they make you look bad at first," Henigan said. "We started slow last week but then got things going. Birdville is similar. 

"It's the second round. Everyone is good and you have to go prove yourself every week." 

STEVE GAMEL can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @NewspaperSteve. 

What you need to know

What: Ryan vs Birdville
When: 3 p.m. Friday
Where: Saginaw High School
Last meeting: Ryan won 46-41 in 2008
Steve Gamel — Ryan 50, Birdville 14
Jimmy Isbell — Ryan 56, Birdville 14
Brady Keane — Ryan 49, Birdville 20
Clay Massey — Ryan 42, Birdville 17