5A DI State Preview: Cedar Park vs. Denton Ryan
Some how, some way, the royal "we" found a way to get through this hectic, unprecedented season. There was always concern lurking in the background that the season would be further delayed or wouldn't even finish.
But here we are. The final week of a 21-week season with the final four games here.
Like the 5A DII preview, we're going to change up the preview style. Instead of previewing both teams, we'll take the local angle and dig deep into the DFW teams, and we peel back the curtain on Denton Ryan, which is gunning for its first state title since 2002.
It marks the second straight year for Denton Ryan to get to the state finals, losing last year 28-22 to Alvin Shadow Creek as the game-winning touchdown pass fell to the turf as time expired.
Since that moment, it's been a "state or bust" mentality for Ryan as it has just run right through its opponents this season. Whether it was suffocating defense with its star-studded talent at all levels or its quick-strike offense with weekly highlight-reel plays, Ryan has shown each and every week why it was the state's No. 1-ranked team.
HOW RYAN GOT HERE
Through the regular season, Ryan encountered one tough game in a crosstown matchup with Denton Guyer. Including that game, Ryan scored less than 41 points just twice leading up to the playoffs, winning by an average of 30 points per game.
In the playoffs, Ryan completely dominated its first two rounds before meeting stiffer competition in Longview and Highland Park. In those games, Ryan jumped out to early leads and seemed content with just getting by and moving on. Last week though, Ryan sort of played with its food, allowed Mansfield Summit to get back into the game before ultimately turning the dial up a bit and pulling away late.
HOW RYAN WILL WIN
Getting Ja'Tavion Sanders involved early.
If there was ever a blueprint to hold the two-way star down on offense, Mansfield Summit laid those plans out. It matched the physicality of Sanders and kept him in check.
But even if Cedar Park is able to limit Sanders (Thunder), it will have to find a way to limit Bowman (Lightning), who had 13 receptions and 134 yards. With talent at the skill positions, the most important play will come down to quarterback Seth Henigan, who struggled for most of last year's state title game.
Defensively, Ryan showed it can dominate a game when asked to do so. When the game got close last week, the defense showed out with relentless pressure and making splash plays.
HOW RYAN LOSES
Playing with its food for too long.
Ryan needed a wakeup call to flip the switch, and the same thing for Cedar Park last week. Ryan cannot do that again and expect to win. While Ryan has the athletes all over the field, that won't be enough to secure the state championship. Collectively, the team cannot act as though it is the superior team and its opponent will lay down.
This will be a competitive game. Ryan is only favored by a field goal and it very well might come down to that. Ryan hasn't been asked to play a full 48 minutes this season, but it will have to in order to win its first title in 18 years. Seth Henigan will have a solid performance in spreading the ball around this time and the defense makes a couple of big plays again to help Ryan get some distance on the scoreboard.
Ryan wins 38-27KICKOFF: 7 p.m. Friday @ AT&T Stadium (Arlington)
LINE: Denton Ryan favored by 3
FOLLOW: @iamspeters, @tommy_yarrish, @VYPEDFW and @VypeATX for various, live updates
LISTEN: VYPE Live Broadcast
WATCH: Fox Sports Southwest and VYPE UIL State Watch Along on YouTube