Basketball: Will the Ryan girls make the region tournament?

Denton Ryan Lady Raiders senior guard Julia McKeathen (5) and senior point guard Traeli Calhoun (33) hug after a win against the Chisholm Trail Lady Rangers. The Lady Rangers faced-off against the Lady Raiders, Tuesday, February 14, 2017, at Keller High School in Keller, Texas. Tomas Gonzalez/DRC

Denton Ryan Lady Raiders senior guard Julia McKeathen (5) and senior point guard Traeli Calhoun (33) hug after a win against the Chisholm Trail Lady Rangers. The Lady Rangers faced-off against the Lady Raiders, Tuesday, February 14, 2017, at Keller High School in Keller, Texas. Tomas Gonzalez/DRC

The Ryan girls have a chance to make the Class 5A region tournament in the same season where they won their first playoff game since 2011.

To keep that magical run going, the Lady Raiders first have to knock off Birdville at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night in a third round game at Keller Central.

So the biggest question for Ryan fans is: Can Ryan win?

At this point, anything is possible. I don’t think anyone is surprised that Ryan has made it this far, but the fact that Birdville is the opponent may be more of a head scratcher. Birdville is good but clearly many people had Saginaw Boswell pegged for this round. Boswell was coming off an absolute thrashing of Denton in the first round and was ranked No. 5 in Class 5A by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches.

When I spoke to Ryan coach Monesha Allen immediately following Ryan’s 60-51 win over Grapevine on Thursday, she praised Boswell up and down and seemed as if she knew that would be who they’d face next.

Birdville had other plans, beating Boswell in overtime, 41-39.

Birdville will be led by senior Savannah Lawson, who scored 17 points to go with 11 rebounds and four steals against Boswell. That included a layup with 24 seconds left to lift her team to the OT win.

Her performance was just good enough to offset a huge night from Boswell’s Audrey Warren, who finished with 20 points, seven rebounds, three steals and three blocks. My buddy, Brian Gosset, covered the game that night for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. You can read about it here.

Regardless of who they play, Ryan could be difficult to beat if it continues its hot shooting from last week. The win over Grapevine saw the Lady Raiders hit seven 3-pointers, six from C’yera Coleman, and still get 18 points from senior post player Traeli Calhoun. Grapevine stormed back from a 19-point deficit, but could not maintain the same hot shooting.

One more win, and it’s a region tournament trip for Ryan or Birdville.

 

Football: Ryan’s LeBlanc confirms he’s following father to Kentucky

Ryan junior defensive tackle Dayton LeBlanc (56) tackles Denton senior running back/defensive back Caleb Osuofa (2), Friday, September 23, 2016, in Denton, Texas, Jeff Woo/DRC

Ryan junior defensive tackle Dayton LeBlanc (56) tackles Denton senior running back/defensive back Caleb Osuofa (2), Friday, September 23, 2016, in Denton, Texas, Jeff Woo/DRC

The coaching shuffle that went down Thursday at North Texas also has impacted the Ryan football team. Junior defensive tackle Dayton LeBlanc, whose father, Derrick LeBlanc, is on his way to Kentucky after one year as UNT’s defensive line coach, also is leaving after just one season with the Raiders.

LeBlanc confirmed this morning that he will follow his father.

“It’s hard, but I’ve come to accept it,” LeBlanc said. “I love everyone at Ryan and I hope for the best for everyone. I just hope I end up at a school with great coaches like I had here.

“I’m going to continue working out with my teammates right up until I leave.”

LeBlanc moved from Mississippi before the start of last season and immediately became a starter at tackle for a defensive unit already rich in talent. He finished the year with 77 tackles (17 for loss), three fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles. He returned two for touchdowns.

The Raiders went 14-1 this past season, and while their offense remains pretty much intact, almost everyone is gone on the defensive side. That includes Earnest Brown IV (Northwestern), Tyreke Davis (North Texas) and Delano Robinson (SMU).

LeBlanc would have been the only returning starter on the defensive line next year.

“We hate to see Dayton go, and we wish him and his dad the best,” Ryan coach Dave Henigan said. “He’s a great player and a great leader. It’s definitely tough for the Raiders, and I know it’s tough for Dayton.”

Our UNT beat writer, Brett Vito, confirmed Thursday that Derrick LeBlanc was leaving the program to take the same post at Kentucky. He’s one of four Mean Green assistants who have left the program. You can read that story here.

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

 

Ryan’s Earnest Brown IV makes 247Sports’ All-Impact Team for 2017 recruits

Ryan senior football player, Earnest Brown IV, signs his national letter of intent to Northwestern University at the Ryan High School Field House, Wednesday, February 1, 2017, in Denton, Texas, Jeff Woo/DRC

Ryan senior football player, Earnest Brown IV, signs his national letter of intent to Northwestern University at the Ryan High School Field House, Wednesday, February 1, 2017, in Denton, Texas, Jeff Woo/DRC

A lot of really good things have been said over the last few years about Ryan defensive lineman and new Northwestern signee Earnest Brown IV. At 6-5, 240 pounds, Brown is big, athletic and fits the mold of a guy who not only should be successful at the college level, but could find himself playing right away.

Earlier today, 247Sports came out with its All-Impact Team for the 2017 class. Brown, of course, was on that list. The 26-man unit, which consists of 12 offensive players, 12 defensive players and two special teams players, takes a hard look at the prospects with the best combination of ready-to-play skill and opportunity.

Here is what they had to say about Brown …

Earnest Brown (Northwestern): The top-ranked player in Northwestern’s 2017 class will have a chance to play right away with C.J. Robbins leaving an opening on the defensive line. Brown, the nation’s No. 96 overall prospect, totaled 36 tackles for a loss as a senior.”

Brown is well aware of the opportunity he has at Northwestern and alluded to the bond he’s developed with Northwestern coaches when I spoke to him at Ryan’s national signing day ceremony on Wednesday. You can read that story here.

To see the full All-Impact Team from 247Sports, go here.

 

Denton-area basketball players among nominees for McDonald’s All-American Games

Argyle's Vivian Gray, center, celebrates with her teammates as they win over Waco La Vega during the UIL Girls Basketball 4A State Championship at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Saturday, March 5, 2016. (Stephen Spillman/Special Contributor)

Argyle’s Vivian Gray, center, celebrates with her teammates as they win over Waco La Vega during the UIL Girls Basketball 4A State Championship at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Saturday, March 5, 2016. (Stephen Spillman/Special Contributor)

The nominee list for the 40th McDonald’s All-American Games is out. Below is the list of Denton-area nominees for the girls squad. The boys team does not have any nominees from the Denton area.

It should be noted that this is part of the very early stages of the selection process for this particular All-American game. According to an official press release, players from 45 states and the District of Columbia were nominated by high school coaches, athletic directors, principals and members of the McDonald’s All-American Games Selection Committee.

The final roster of 24 boys and 24 girls will be announced Jan. 15 on the McDonald’s All-American Games Selection Show on ESPNU. The games will be played March 29, 2017 at the United Center in Chicago.

2017 All-American Games Nominees (Girls — Denton Area ONLY):

Emily Earley–Liberty Christian School–Argyle, TX 
Vivian Gray–Argyle High School–Argyle, TX 
Kayla Haynes–Argyle High School–Argyle, TX 
Lauren Heard–John H. Guyer High School–Denton, TX 
Jocelyn Pierce–Argyle High School–Argyle, TX 
Madison Ralston–Argyle High School–Argyle, TX
Brittany Hamilton–Argyle High School–Argyle, TX 

Football: Sanger’s Chuck Galbreath named full-time AD, Ford becomes new head coach

Sanger head football coach and district athletic director Chuck Galbreath confirmed Friday he has stepped down as coach to focus solely on his duties as athletic director.

Galbreath is 64-44 in 10 seasons at Sanger while holding both positions, which is not uncommon for smaller school districts. However, many districts are moving toward separating the roles, Galbreath said, and now is a good time for Class 4A Sanger to follow that lead.

Galbreath

Galbreath

Offensive coordinator Cole Ford is the Indians’ new head coach, effective immediately.

“This has been discussed for a couple of years,” Galbreath said. “A lot of school districts, particularly the larger ones, have a [full-time] athletic director. I am absolutely OK with this. It was ultimately my decision, and upper administration said it would be on my timing.”

Galbreath is a 1984 graduate of Sanger and his coaching career includes a short stint as the head coach at Cooper, and one year as an assistant at Ryan. He left coaching and was in the private sector for just more than two years before being hired at Sanger in 2007.

Sanger has made the playoffs in each of the last four seasons under Galbreath. The Indians posted a combined 19-5 record between the 2014 and 2015 seasons and advanced to the second round of the playoffs each time.

Sanger finished 6-5 in 2016 and lost in the first round to Brownwood.

While he has enjoyed being a football coach, Galbreath said his long-term goal always has been to improve the overall athletic department at Sanger. Making this move allows him to dive deeper into several projects, including facility upgrades and the potential addition of sports programs in the next few years.

Argyle football coach and athletic director Todd Rodgers, whose program has long been a Sanger rival, said he’s excited for Galbreath and his new opportunity.

“Our communities are growing and the AD role is taking a greater toll on time,” said Rodgers, who also acknowledged the trend of school districts moving toward separating positions. “I’m sure he’s doing his dead-level best to manage that and try to be the head football coach. For him to be able to do this and meet the needs of the school district from the athletic director standpoint versus the combined spot, I’m happy for him.”

Galbreath added that it’s a win-win for everyone involved, especially Ford, who has performed well in his four years as the offensive coordinator at Sanger and deserved an opportunity to lead the program.

“We feel he’s the guy that can take over, and it will be great for the program,” Galbreath said. “I’m a Sanger guy and always have been. I’m looking forward to this.”

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

Ryan QB Sanders has torn ACL, surgery upcoming

Ryan junior quarterback Spencer Sanders (3) sits on the sideline due to an injury at AT&T Stadium, Saturday, December 10, 2016, in Arlington, Texas, Jeff Woo/DRC

Ryan junior quarterback Spencer Sanders (3) sits on the sideline due to an injury at AT&T Stadium, Saturday, December 10, 2016, in Arlington, Texas, Jeff Woo/DRC

Denton Ryan quarterback Spencer Sanders has a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, confirming what many close to the situation anticipated after he was injured in last weekend’s Class 5A Division I state semifinal loss to Highland Park.

Sanders, a junior who is verbally committed to Oklahoma State, shared the news in a text message Tuesday morning with the Denton Record-Chronicle. His surgery is slated for Dec. 23.

Sanders was injured Saturday with roughly seven minutes to play in the first half when he was tackled on a 6-yard run to the Highland Park 7-yard line. Sanders said his knee buckled on the play as defenders piled on top of him. He was helped from the field and stood on the sideline with crutches for the remainder of the game.

“It was more that there were people on my back,” Sanders said immediately after the game. “I was crouching and I guess it was just too much pressure on my knee and I went down on it. Whatever it is, it will be fixed.”

Ryan went on to lose to the Scots, 31-24.

“It’s a tough break for Spencer, and it was obviously a tough break for our team,” Ryan coach Dave Henigan said. “We’re all disappointed, but the blessing is that it’s only his ACL. I’m not trying to downplay the ACL part, I’m just saying that it could have been a lot worse with more ligament damage.

“Spencer has the right mentality. He will be back.”

Sanders passed for 3,258 yards, rushed for another 1,099 and accounted for 56 total touchdowns. He verbally committed to OSU in October and is currently the No. 14 dual-threat quarterback in his class according to 247Sports’ national rankings.

This is Sanders’ second season-ending knee injury. He suffered a similar injury to his left knee as a freshman in a late-season loss to Keller. He missed the next two games and Ryan finished 5-5 to miss the playoffs. Sanders returned from that injury in four months and started all of Ryan’s games in 2015 as the Raiders finished 13-1 in Class 6A.

Ryan (14-1 in 2016) is 32-7 over the last three seasons. In four of those seven losses, Sanders either didn’t finish the game or didn’t play at all due to injury.

Not only did Sanders’ injury come at the worst time for the football team, but it also impacts other sports at Ryan. Sanders was expected to start in basketball and has also competed on the track team.

“The normal recovery time is six months,” Henigan said. “Spencer has great work ethic, he’s tough and he’s got good muscle structure. So I’m sure he will have a great rehab. The other benefit is we won’t have spring ball, so he’s got time.”

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

 

 

 

What you need to know: Highland Park

Colleyville Heritage senior quarterback Cam Roane (15) rushes the ball and gets tackled by Ryan senior defensive back Delano Robinson (10) at AT&T Stadium, Saturday, December 3, 2016, in Arlington, Texas, Jeff Woo/DRC

Colleyville Heritage senior quarterback Cam Roane (15) rushes the ball and gets tackled by Ryan senior defensive back Delano Robinson (10) at AT&T Stadium, Saturday, December 3, 2016, in Arlington, Texas, Jeff Woo/DRC

In what is being billed as a battle of two great defenses, Ryan and Highland Park square off tomorrow at AT&T Stadium in a Class 5A Division I state semifinal. It’s a monster game considering it features two tradition-rich programs, plenty of storylines, and of course, the whole state title game berth on the line thing.

That means anything can happen. So sit back, relax and allow me to share some small nuggets of truth before my longer game advance in tomorrow’s Denton Record-Chronicle. Enjoy!

The Game: No. 4 Ryan (14-0) vs Highland Park (12-2), Saturday, 1:30 p.m. at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

Series Record: Ryan leads the all-time series 2-1. This is the first meeting since 2005, though incidentally, Ryan beat the Scots in the 2003 state semifinals to advance to what was their fourth-straight state title game.

What happened last week: Ryan beat Colleyville Heritage 24-10. Highland Park held off Mansfield Legacy, 14-7.

What to expect: Expect anything. Both defenses have played absolutely out of their mind all season long. Highland Park is giving up an average of 13.5 points per game while Ryan is averaging 16.1 points against through 14 games. That would make for a low-scoring game, but as I said, expect anything. Ryan’s offense is averaging just more than 40 points per game and features a Division I quarterback in Spencer Sanders, a Division I linebacker who also plays running back in Tyreke Davis and a Division I wide receiver in Gabriel Douglas. Add in receiver Tauskie Dove, who is Division I material in a lot of people’s minds, and you have a ton of weapons to contend with. Highland Park is here for a reason, though, and not only have the Scots made a career out of winning big games, they also don’t make a ton of mistakes.

Final say: I was talking to my compadre, Adam Boedeker, yesterday and he made the comment that I might be underestimating Highland Park. Quite the contrary. I’m not underestimating the Scots. I’d be stupid to do that. But with that said, I don’t think I am overestimating Ryan, either. My thoughts boil down to this: if Ryan wins, everyone will say they expected that to happen. If Highland Park were to win, many people would consider it an upset on some level. Also, Ryan is undefeated. So for the Scots, to be the man you have to beat the man.

Prediction: Ryan 30, Highland Park 14.

Football: Lake Dallas lineman commits to Texas State

Lake Dallas High School offensive lineman Segun Ijiyera (70), an area standout, follows a play during the first half as Prestonwood Christian Academy hosted Lake Dallas High School at Lions Stadium in Plano on Friday night, September 9, 2016.  (Stewart F. House/Special Contributor)

Lake Dallas High School offensive lineman Segun Ijiyera (70), an area standout, follows a play during the first half as Prestonwood Christian Academy hosted Lake Dallas High School at Lions Stadium in Plano on Friday night, September 9, 2016. (Stewart F. House/Special Contributor)

Segun Ijiyera’s commitment to Texas State on Sunday couldn’t have worked out better for both parties. Ijiyera, a career offensive tackle at Lake Dallas, wanted to try his hand at defensive line, and the Bobcats had a need at the position.

Ijiyera had eight offers to sift through, but at that point, Texas State was a no-brainer.

“They offered me as an offensive lineman a long time ago,” Ijiyera said. “I played defense this year a little bit, and I felt like that’s where I could play in college. This feels good. It’s something I’ve been thinking about.”

Ijiyera also had offers from schools such as North Texas, Tulane, Nevada, Sam Houston and Southern Mississippi.

Verbal commitments are nonbinding. The first day Ijiyera can sign a national letter of intent is Feb. 1.

The 6-2, 270-pound Ijiyera has predominately been an offensive lineman during his career with the Falcons. He played on both sides of the ball this year due to injuries to several teammates, recording 31 tackles (9 for loss) with one sack.

Ijiyera said the opportunity to play defense at the next level involved getting some help from an old teammate. Former Lake Dallas quarterback Dagan Haehn, who went to Kansas but since has transferred to Texas State, put in a good word for Ijiyera when the two recently spoke.

“I told [Dagan] that I’d love to play defense in college, and next thing I know he gets a chance to talk to the coach and he told them about me,” Ijiyera said. “They watched my film and liked what they saw.”

Lake Dallas coach Michael Young agreed that this is a perfect fit.

“He had been leaning this way for a while,” Young said of Ijiyera. “I think his visit [to Texas State] helped throw it over the top.”

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

 

What you need to know: Colleyville Heritage

Denton Ryan wide reciever Tauskie Dove catches a pass from quarterback Spencer Sanders deep in Plainsmen territory and runs it in for a touchdown early in a 5A Division I regional semifinal playoff game on Friday, Nov. 25 against Lubock Monterey at Shotwell Stadium in Abilene. photo by Gary Rhodes

Denton Ryan wide reciever Tauskie Dove catches a pass from quarterback Spencer Sanders deep in Plainsmen territory and runs it in for a touchdown early in a 5A Division I regional semifinal playoff game on Friday, Nov. 25 against Lubock Monterey at Shotwell Stadium in Abilene.
photo by Gary Rhodes

Buckle up: Ryan travels to AT&T Stadium in Arlington tomorrow to take on Colleyville Heritage in a Class 5A Division I Region I final. Heritage is on a roll and has already matched the longest playoff run in school history. Meanwhile, Ryan has been to the state quarterfinals lots of times, including just last year.

What will happen? I’m not sure, but this has all the makings of a great game to determine who moves on to the state semifinals.

A longer game advance will be in tomorrow’s Denton Record-Chronicle. In the meantime, here are some things you need to know:

The Game: No. 4 Ryan (13-0) vs Colleyville Heritage (10-3), Saturday, 10:30 a.m. at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

Series Record: Colleyville Heritage leads the all-time series 4-3. This is the first meeting between the two programs since 2013.

What happened last week: Ryan beat Lubbock Monterey, 38-21. Colleyville Heritage beat Lubbock Coronado, 43-34.

What to expect: A great game. Ryan and Heritage have explosive playmakers on offense, and are loaded on defense. That combination is an obvious reason why they are both here in this round. Heritage quarterback Cam Roane can make every throw and is not afraid to get everyone involved in the passing game. He will need to in order to have a chance at keeping Ryan’s suffocating defense guessing. Meanwhile, Ryan QB Spencer Sanders is dangerous in the run game and through the air with 54 total touchdowns. He’s had help in the run game this postseason from Tyreke Davis, a starting linebacker who also plays running back. Davis is a key to making Ryan’s offense go, and he’s a guy the Raiders did not have in this same round last year due to injury.

Final say: Jerry World will be rockin’ for this one, and for good reason. I can totally see this one coming down to who can make the most plays and least mistakes in the fourth quarter. With that said, I have to say that team will be Ryan. At 13-0, the Raiders haven’t given anyone a reason to doubt them.

Prediction: Ryan 40, Colleyville Heritage 24.

What you need to know: Lubbock Monterey

Ryan senior running back Tyreke Davis (21) celebrates with junior quarterback Spencer Sanders (3) after he scores a touchdown at Northwest ISD Stadium, Friday, November 18, 2016, in Justin, Texas, Jeff Woo/DRC

Ryan senior running back Tyreke Davis (21) celebrates with junior quarterback Spencer Sanders (3) after he scores a touchdown at Northwest ISD Stadium, Friday, November 18, 2016, in Justin, Texas, Jeff Woo/DRC

Happy Thanksgiving week, y’all! With tomorrow being Turkey Day, I’m getting this short blog out a day earlier than normal. I hope you don’t mind.

So let’s get right down to it. Ryan travels to Abilene this week to take on Lubbock Monterey at Shotwell Stadium in a Class 5A Division I Region I semifinal. It’s the first meeting between the two schools, and a Ryan win would give the program 13 wins in back-to-back seasons. Monterey would love to spoil that opportunity while picking up a huge win over the No. 4 team in the state.

I ventured out to Ryan twice this week watch a little bit of practice, and at least from what I saw, the Raiders are itching to get back out on the field. I also took the time to chat with Ryan coach Dave Henigan and Monterey coach Wayne Hutchinson. All of that, including more reactions from players, will be in my game advance story in Friday’s Denton Record-Chronicle.

In the meantime, here’s what you need to know:

The Game: No. 4 Ryan (12-0) vs Lubbock Monterey (10-2), Friday, 7:30 p.m. at Shotwell Stadium in Abilene.

Series Record: This is the first meeting between the two schools.

What happened last week: Ryan beat Richland 34-13. Lubbock Monterey beat El Paso Eastlake 59-26 in its area-round game.

What to expect: I haven’t seen Lubbock Monterey play, but I believe a lot will hinge on what quarterback Jaron Jones can or cannot do against Ryan’s defense. Jones is a dual-threat guy and Henigan has already told me he’s one of the more explosive QB’s Ryan will see this season. That’s quite a compliment since Ryan has seen quarterbacks like Trevor Hatton in Lancaster, Kaleb Fletcher at Mesquite Poteet and Jason Shelley at Frisco Lone Star, to name a few. Then there’s the overall explosiveness Ryan possesses on offense. Henigan insists Ryan will have its hands full, but I think the same can be said for Monterey.

Final say: Lubbock Monterey is no slouch, but Ryan simply has too many weapons. I think the Raiders pick up their 13th win of the year and advance.

Prediction: Ryan 40, Lubbock Monterey 14.