As I was nestled in the warmth of the press box at Northwest ISD Athletic Complex in Justin, a few people hopped on our Friday Night Chat (which is definitely worth joining in on), wondering who their beloved Ryan Raiders were playing.
They weren’t playing anybody. Ryan was off for the second time in three weeks, something that is about as rare as, oh, three straight World Series appearances.
Instead of playing the usual 10-game schedule, Ryan is only playing nine regular season games. Let’s look back at this February to find out how Ryan got an extra week off.
Per the state’s biennial tradition, coaches from all over the North Texas region flocked to Birdville’s Fine Arts/Athletic Complex. On Feb. 1, the UIL announced its classification realignment.
Now, it was almost a foregone conclusion that Ryan had just enough students to be bumped up to Class 5A. Turns out that was the case, with Ryan moving up and Guyer back down to 4A, where it looks like the Wildcats are going to paw at opponents like a ball of yarn before they dismantle the opposition before halftime.
But the most unexpected part was the six-team district Ryan joined. District 5-5A is one of only four 5A districts (5-5A, 10-5A, 25-5A, 28-5A) with six teams in it in the entire state. Class 4A only has three six-team districts (3-4A, 4-4A, 16-4A).
This was something Ryan head coach Joey Florence wasn’t expecting. And so, as every coach scrambled to find games, Florence was stuck in a bind.
On that day in February, Florence was one of the last coaches to leave the virtually empty room. Florence scrambled and found Monterrey Tech (from Monterrey, Mexico). That game fell through, and as the season approached, their seemed to be no need to fill the vacancy.
If Ryan was in a seven-team district, the Raiders would have started district play on Friday. But considering the circumstances, Ryan needed a non-district game to fill the hole in the schedule on Oct. 5.
With all of 4A and 5A preoccupied with district play, the only viable option for Ryan would be for the Raiders to play a team from District 10-5A.
Allen, McKinney, McKinney Boyd, Plano, Plano East and Plano West all hail from that district.
Ryan defeated McKinney 35-28 on Sept. 28.
McKinney has historically been terrible, and with the Raiders not expected to as strong as they’ve been in years past, a match-up against McKinney made sense. McKinney’s enrollment numbers (2,121) are only four students off of Ryan’s enrollment (2,125)
What doesn’t make sense is Ryan getting mauled by the likes Allen (5,388) and Plano East (6,016). Flower Mound Marcus, another 5-5A team, also opted for a nine-game schedule.
Last night, McKinney Boyd beat Lewisville 42-14 and Plano West crushed Flower Mound 47-7.
So instead of risking any unnecessary injuries or a lopsided defeat, Ryan opted for a week of rest before it opens district play against Marcus next Friday.
It’s a smart decision because nondistrict play has absolutely no bearing on the postseason. And for a team waiting on its starting quarterback to get healthy, I’m sure the Raiders weren’t too concerned about not playing on Friday.
The week off comes before Ryan starts a daunting district schedule, and based on Ryan’s first four games, the next five weeks should provide some entertaining games.