Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Football: Ryan crushes Lobos to cap perfect season
A perennial football powerhouse with two state titles to its name in the last 10 years, Ryan is certainly no stranger to success.
On Friday night, however, it accomplished something that, even at one of the state's top programs, doesn't happen very often.
Thanks to another suffocating performance on defense and three scores by running back Kaylon Alexander, the Raiders topped Little Elm 42-7 at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex to lock up an undefeated regular season for just the second time in school history.
The other time Ryan (10-0, 6-0 District 4-4A) finished the regular season unscathed was back in 2001, when the Raiders went on to capture their first state championship.
"It's special," Ryan coach Joey Florence said. "I'm proud of these kids. I love 'em. They're good kids that work hard, they're committed and they've bought into what we're doing. We started talking about going undefeated a few weeks ago and, give them credit, they did what they had to do. I wouldn't want to coach anybody else."
Although Ryan just started talking about the prospect of an undefeated season, many expected it long before that. After knocking off Sulphur Springs on the road to open the season and getting past Lake Dallas and Wichita Falls Rider with little difficulty, 10-0 seemed within reach for the Raiders.
Against Little Elm (5-5, 2-4), they didn't do much to debunk those thoughts after jumping up 14-0 midway through the second quarter.
After turning the ball over on its first offensive possession, Ryan got on the board with one second left in the first quarter on a 4-yard run by Alexander. Alexander scored again in the second quarter and finished the night with three touchdowns and 87 yards on 19 carries.
Unlike most of the Raiders' opponents, though, the Lobos didn't fade away easily. After failing to move the ball for most of the game, Little Elm caught a break when linebacker Dillon Bocanegra scooped up a fumble by Ryan utility back Craig Moore and returned it to the Raiders' 17-yard line. On the next play, running back Keaun Kinner skirted through the Ryan defense on a draw play for a touchdown.
The fumble was one of two lost by the Raiders in the first half and helped to keep Little Elm in the game despite Alexander's third touchdown run less than three minutes later.
"It's always a concern for us," Florence said of the fumbles. "We've done better over the past few weeks, but those two big turnovers came back and hurt us tonight. We have to protect the ball a little better at times, so that's definitely a concern for us. Overall, though, we've done a good job so far."
The Lobos may have managed to linger, but once again Ryan's defense ensured that they never really threatened.
With the score 21-7 late in the third quarter, the Raiders' star-studded defense took things into its own hands. With just under five minutes remaining in the quarter, linebacker Jonny Paramore picked off a pass by Little Elm quarterback Devonte' Pullum and took it 43 yards for a score. The touchdown was just another in an impressive season by Paramore, who has scored four times on turnovers this year.
"I haven't been around anything like that," Florence said. "They call him 'the rattlesnake,' that guy. You never know when he's going to strike."
He wasn't the only one to strike.
Just 11 seconds later, right after Little Elm got the ball after Paramore's score, Pullum bobbled the handoff on a zone-read play. Ryan's Mario Edwards scooped up the loose ball and took it 12 yards for a score to give his team a 35-14 lead.
From there, Ryan just protected its lead and undefeated record, expanding its advantage on a touchdown run by quarterback Nash Knight before giving up a touchdown to Lobo receiver Michael Blanchette with less than two minutes remaining.
Although the win was big for Ryan's psyche, it had no effect on its playoff standing. The outright winners of the district title, the Raiders will advance to the Class 4A Division I playoffs as a No. 1 seed. They'll face Amarillo Palo Duro in the first round next Saturday in Wichita Falls. Palo Duro lost to Amarillo Caprock 34-0 Friday night.
Although the Raiders had some idea who their playoff opponent would be heading into Friday's game, Florence said they hadn't given it much thought.
"I don't know anything about them," Florence said of Palo Duro. "We focus on the team we're playing. We never look ahead. We don't get too high on our highs or low on our lows."
Little Elm, meanwhile, watched its playoff hopes slip away. After falling to Ryan, the Lobos officially lost their grip on 4-4A's final playoff spot when Denton beat The Colony 28-25 and knocked Little Elm down to fifth place.
MARSHALL MOORE can be reached at 940-566-6869. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ryan 42, Little Elm 14
Little Elm 0 7 0 7 - 14
Ryan 7 14 14 7 - 42
R - Kaylon Alexander 4 run (Colten Gutierrez kick), :01
R - Alexander 4 run (Gutierrez kick), 8:47
LE - Keaun Kinner 17 run (Jared Martin kick), 6:17
R - Alexander 10 run (Gutierrez kick), 3:20
R - Jonny Paramore 43 interception return (Gutierrez kick), 4:48
R - Mario Edwards 12 fumble return (Gutierrez kick), 4:37
R - Nash Knight 3 run (Gutierrez kick), 11:57
LE - Michael Blanchette 12 run (Martin kick), 1:18
First downs 8 19
Rushing 40-112 35-138
Passing yards 0 183
Total yards 112 321
Passing 0-3-1 15-21-0
Fumbles-lost 1-1 2-2
Punts-avg. 6-27.2 2-36.0
Penalties-yards 3-25 5-50
Rushing: LE - Keaun Kinner 23-50, Matt Marrs 7-44, Michael Blanchette 2-25, Devonte' Pullum 8-(minus 7). R - Kaylon Alexander 19-87, Jerrick Harvey 6-33, Nash Knight 5-16, Jacoby Lawsson 2-11, Team 1-(minus 4), Craig Moore 2-(minus 5).
Passing: LE - Devonte' Pullum 0-3-1-0. R - Nash Knight 15-20-0-183, Hunter Wakefield 0-1-0-0.
Receiving: LE - None. R - Dominic Thompson 5-49, Sam Johnson 3-44, Kaylon Alexander 2-28, Michael Cudd 2-25, Jerrick Harvey 1-23, Craig Moore 2-14.