It may be the last day of 2013, but Ryan’s Class 5A Division II semifinal against Keller Fossil Ridge will be remembered by many long after another year ticks off the calendar.
If you were at this game – and didn’t leave after halftime – then you witnessed the best game in 2013.
For the last four days, I’ve counted down the top five contests of 2013. We’ve had great state championship games, thrilling playoff contests and crosstown rivalries, but nothing could top Ryan and Fossil Ridge’s unforgettable game.
Nov. 30, 2013
Ryan 42, Keller Fossil Ridge 37
It’s been a month since that game, and I still have trouble wrapping my mind around what happened on that Saturday afternoon at Apogee Stadium.
Ryan trailed 31-0 before the Raiders could even pick a first down. Just let that sink in for a second.
Fossil Ridge was dominating this game, and then, at the end of the first half, Ryan started to put together a drive.
First, Maurice Gordon broke off a 14-yard carry to give the Raiders its initial first down of the game with 2:18 left in the first half. Ryan kept marching down the field and senior quarterback Mitchell Bridges scored on a 1-yard touchdown run, nine seconds left before halftime.
I don’t think anybody could have predicted what was going to happen in the second half.
Trent Willis came up with big performances all postseason, and he had two big touchdown catches and 2-point conversion catch in the second half. Xavier Gray also had a big game for Ryan, as Bridges hit both of his favorite wide receivers often in the second half.
The few of us in the press box were completely dumbfounded at how this game turned out. By the time Ryan was on the verge of taking the lead in the fourth quarter, nobody believed Fossil Ridge was going to stop Ryan from taking the lead and advancing to the regional finals.
The Panthers appeared to ease up on the Raiders in the second half, and that severely came back to haunt Fossil Ridge.
Some people wanted to call this a gigantic collapse, while others said it was purely a miraculous comeback. It was a combination of both, but give Ryan all the credit it deserves for never quitting.
But Bridges had a really telling quote after the game, and it’s a testament to the job Ryan head coach Joey Florence has done with the Raiders during the last 14 seasons.
“It starts with the coaches,” Bridges said after the game. “Our coaches never let us doubt ourselves. They build us up, even if we’re doing awful. We turned it around and made good adjustments at halftime.”
For all the cliché coaching speak about never giving up and playing all four quarters, that was all true for Ryan.
Even when the Raiders were slicing chunks off the deficit, even when the Raiders trailed by 16 going into halftime, the possibility of a comeback was unthinkable to everybody except for the Ryan football team and a few of its fans.
When Ryan scored its final touchdown with 24 seconds left, the stadium exploded as Ryan cemented its spot among the final eight teams left in the 5A Division II bracket.
Fossil Ridge scored a touchdown on the final play of the game, but they were only six consolation points. A very similar start came back to plague Ryan the next week in the Region I final against Cedar Hill, the eventual state champions. Even then, you couldn’t count Ryan out.
After a 13-point comeback against Waco Midway in the area round and the 31-point comeback against Fossil Ridge, it was foolish to think Ryan didn’t have a shot.
The Fossil Ridge game was considered one of the best comebacks in recent years, and this group will always be remembered for the resiliency showed that Saturday in the year’s best game.