We’re officially past the halfway point of the season and heading into the final four weeks of the regular season. It’s flown by pretty quickly, and so far, Ryan is still perfect.
A lot of people think the Ryan-Coppell game (if both teams are still undefeated) ends up being the biggest game of the season for the Raiders.
Tonight’s game is Ryan’s most important game of the regular season. I’ll get into that and more and everything else you need to know about Hebron.
Ryan (5-0, 1-0) at Hebron (3-3, 0-1), Hawk Stadium, 7:30 p.m.
Series Record: Ryan leads 4-1
What happened last year: Hebron picked up its first win against Ryan last season in a 14-9 game that was a defensive affair.
The Hawks controlled the game throughout the contest, but Ryan made things interesting late when Desmond Oliver had 2-yard fumble return for a touchdown with 2:06 remaining. The game ended in a little bit of controversy, if I remember correctly, and they ended up calling the game after a lot of confusion on the field existed between both coaches. Oliver’s fumble return was Ryan’s only touchdown.
What to expect this year (Part I): Like I said earlier, this is Ryan’s most important game of the season. Why?
Last season, Hebron beat Ryan and went into the last week of the regular season with the highest seed of the two District 5-5A schools with the lowest enrollments. The two playoff schools with the higher enrollments go into the 5A Division I bracket, and the two lowest schools go into the Division II bracket.
Ryan’s the smallest school in 5A Region I, so the Raiders will go Division II no matter what. But Ryan still needed to clinch a playoff berth on the last week of the season in 2012. Ryan clinched, but since Marcus upset Hebron in the final week of the season, Ryan ended up finishing second in 5-5A and as the top seed going into the Division II playoffs. Hebron was the bottom seed and lost to Colleyville Heritage in the first round.
If Ryan loses to Coppell later in the season, it doesn’t matter. Coppell is most likely going to go to Division I (assuming Lewisville and Flower Mound don’t make the playoffs). Therefore, tonight’s game has a huge impact on the playoff outlook.
Ryan head coach Joey Florence said he hadn’t looked at the potential implications of tonight’s outcome.
“I don’t know,” Florence said. “I haven’t looked at it – I’ll be honest with you. I know it sounds crazy. My energy is focused on trying to get into the playoffs, and then the luck of the draw is always the luck of the draw. You want to get the top seed.”
What to expect this year (Part II): The best player on the field tonight will be Hebron safety Jamal Adams. Adams is ranked as the third-best safety in the Class of 2014. And that’s across the nation.
He’ll start at safety, but he’ll also see some time at receiver and a few carries, Hebron head coach Brian Brazil said. Adams has three rushing touchdowns and five receiving touchdowns.
“He’s a great player,” Florence said. “You don’t change anything that you’re doing because of him. But you’re aware that he’s out there. And He’s a threat to score any time that he touches it. He’s a top recruit in the country for a reason. He poses problems.”
Slot receiver/cornerback Cedric Dale has already committed to BYU.
Junior Zach Rogers has already committed to Arkansas but he suffered a season-ending knee injury in a scrimmage against Lewisville. Standout defensive end Daniel Wise will also be out for tonight’s game, Brasil said.
The Hebron head coach said Ryan’s defense is something to take note of.
“Their defensive front is really, really strong,” Brazil said. “They create a lot of havoc and create a lot of problems for you. That’s a bit of a concern.”
Of course, Hebron’s 3-4 defense is also nothing to scoff at. It gave problems to Ryan last year and the game could come down to who can run the ball better. Either way, it’s going to be a gritty contest that will have huge playoff implications.
“[Ryan is] just a real solid football team and we’re going to have to play really well to win this football game,” Brazil said. “I hope that’s the same with them. I hope they have to feel like they have to play really well as well. I think it’ll be a good, hard-nosed, physical battle between Coach Flo and myself.”
Ryan player to watch: WR Trent Willis
Hebron player to watch: DB/WR Jamal Adams