Quarterback Jacob Gnacinski lead Keller Fossil Ridge against Ryan in Saturday's Class 5A Division II regional semifinal. (Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News)
It’s not Thanksgiving in Texas without a great slate of high school football games. We’re not done with the regional semifinals yet. Ryan and Keller Fossil Ridge square off today with a trip to the state quarterfinals on the line, and we’ve got you covered before you head out to Apogee Stadium today.
Here’s what you need to know about today’s regional semifinal matchup.
Class 5A Division II Region II semifinal
Ryan (9-2) vs. Keller Fossil Ridge (9-3), Apogee Stadium, 1 p.m.
Series record: Fossil Ridge leads 3-1
How we got here: Ryan is coming off a huge win against Waco Midway last week. The Raiders erased a 13-point halftime deficit to pick up a 34-33 victory against Midway. In the locker room after the game, it was apparent that the win transcended regular playoff wins. It gives Ryan a lot of momentum going into today’s game.
“It’ll be one of my fondest memories because it was such a big stage and you’re down 13 points. I didn’t think we played bad,” Ryan head coach Joey Florence said.
Fossil Ridge, on the other hand, is coming off a convincing 39-7 win against San Angelo Central. Ryan Parker had seven catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns, and quarterback Jacob Gnacinski completed 16 of 32 passes for 220 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
What’s happened in the past: Ryan has lost three straight contests to Fossil Ridge. In 2006 and 2007, the Panthers knocked Ryan out of the playoffs in the bi-district round of the 5A Division II playoffs. It was one of the few times Ryan has failed to win a playoff game. I’m sure Florence and the Raiders are less concerned about the three-game losing streak and are more worried about advancing to next week’s contest.
What to expect this year: Don’t look at Fossil Ridge’s record and sleep on the Panthers. Fossil Ridge has key talent at key positions that could give Ryan fits this afternoon.
Defensively, Ryan will need to shutdown Parker (1,102 receiving yards, 15 TDs) and Gnacinski. Those two account for most of Fossil Ridge’s offense, and Gnacinski (58.5 completion percentage, 2,557 passing yards, 25 TDs, 14 INTs) will be the best dual-threat quarterback Ryan has seen all season. The Ryan secondary will be asked to have another big performance this week.
Offensively, the Raiders will have to contend with Fossil Ridge’s strong defensive line and a secondary that features defensive back Nick Foster, who orally committed to TCU.
This game could be decided by which team is better at the line of scrimmage.
Ryan’s defensive line will need to pressure Gnacinski and hasten his decision-making process. Ryan’s d-line is one of the reasons the Raiders have forced 15 turnovers in their last three games.
Ryan’s offensive line will need to open up holes for running backs Tyrone Williams and Maurice Gordon. Fossil Ridge limited SA Central to 50 yards on 25 carries last week.
Ryan player to watch: DB Paul Hunter
Fossil Ridge player to watch: WR Ryan Parker