When Ryan steps back onto the field at Apogee Stadium on Monday, the Raiders will be nine days removed from the biggest comeback in school history. Ryan hopes there is still some magic left at Apogee for the Class 5A Division II Region I final against Cedar Hill.
No more ice problems. No more waiting around. Finally, we have football.
Here’s what you need to know about Cedar Hill.
Class 5A Division II Region I final
Ryan (10-2) vs. Cedar Hill (11-2), Apogee Stadium, 3 p.m.
Series Record: Cedar Hill leads 1-0
The winner gets: Lake Travis (12-1), Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Waco’s Floyd Casey Stadium.
How we got here: Ryan – Bi-district: Ryan d. Colleyville Heritage 44-34; area: Ryan d. Waco Midway 34-33; Regional semifinal: Ryan d. Keller Fossil Ridge 42-37.
Cedar Hill – Bi-district: Cedar Hill d. Temple 39-35; area: Cedar Hill d. Hebron 42-21; regional semifinal: Cedar Hill d. Abilene Cooper 28-23.
Other than the game against Hebron, Cedar Hill scraped by Temple and Cooper.
As for the Raiders, to call them a second-half team is an understatement. They spotted Fossil Ridge 31 points and still won. They struggled against Midway but found a way to pull-off a 13-point comeback win in the second half.
This ties Ryan’s deepest 5A playoff run. In 2004, the Raiders went to the 5A DI regional final and lost to Southlake Carroll, who beat Ryan in the regular season as well.
What happened last year: This game is a rematch of last year’s Class 5A Division II area game. Ryan lost 48-35 in the only meeting between the two teams. A slow start plagued the Raiders, as Cedar Hill went up 14-0 early. Longhorns quarterback Damion Hobbs completed 16 of 19 passes for 242 yards, three touchdowns, and one rushing score.
Ryan’s offense matched Cedar Hill’s, but a surprise onside kick and a muffed punt ended up being the demise of the Raiders.
Last year’s Cedar Hill squad was absolutely loaded. It had Hobbs (Oregon), wide receiver LaQuivonte Gonzalez (Texas A&M), wide receiver Brandon Harris (Iowa State), and wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo (Ole Miss).
Ryan had a group of juniors and senior defensive back Reynal Caldwell. That was about it.
What to expect this year: Cedar Hill is one of those teams that reloads year after year. They lost perhaps the state’s most talented receiving corps, but they still have junior DaMarkus Lodge. He’s around 6-2, 190 (depending on what site you go to) and he’s already one of the most sought-after targets in the nation. It’d be easier to click here and see all his offers.
Lodge has 1,165 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns. He’s ridiculously good. See for yourself.
Lodge only had six catches for 39 yards against Cooper last week. But, Ryan has faced plenty of good receivers – Hebron’s Jamal Adams, Midway’s Devontre Stricklin and Fossil Ridge’s Ryan Parker.
If Ryan’s defensive line can overwhelm Cedar Hill’s offensive line and force Justin McMillian into hurried passes, that will be the Raiders’ best pass defense. Don’t sleep on Cedar Hill’s backfield either. Larry Hill and Aca’cedric Ware are pretty good, too.
Defensively, Cedar Hill’s most notable player is defensive back Marcus Green, who’s orally committed to Oklahoma.
Ryan’s offense has been effective through the ground and through the air. If Ryan can get its running game going and senior quarterback Mitchell Bridges hits his favorite targets, Trent Willis and Xavier Gray, the Raiders won’t have any problems scoring.
Now I wonder what effect the long layoff will have on Ryan. The Raiders had a lot of momentum after the win against Fossil Ridge, but that seems like forever ago now.
The Raiders have to play all of Monday’s game like they played the second half of the Fossil Ridge game. Ryan can’t play like it did in the first half against Fossil Ridge and expect to win. Cedar Hill’s too good for that.
Also, the winner of the game can’t sustain any injuries because of the quick turnaround. It doesn’t help that Lake Travis defeated A&M Consolidated 21-7 on Saturday and will have two extra days of rest.
Ryan player to watch: DT Reese Strait (17 tackles for loss, five sacks, two forced fumbles)
Cedar Hill player to watch: WR DaMarkus Lodge (1,165 receiving yards, 18.8 yards per catch, 19 TDs)