Photo: Sara Carpenter/TexasHSFootball

DENTON — For the first time in school history, Denton Ryan (10-0, 6-0) was able to finish the regular season at 10-0 for a third consecutive year and claimed the 5-5A district title during a 56-7 throttling of Wichita Falls Rider (5-5, 4-2) Thursday night inside C.H. Collins Athletic Complex.

Once Ryan established their momentum towards the middle stages of the first quarter, Ryan continued to keep rolling and bowl over the competition in all facets of the game.

“I thought we played good defense and created a lot of turnovers. Our special teams were big and then offensively once we got into a rhythm, we were darn near unstoppable it seemed,” Denton Ryan Head Coach Dave Henigan. “As you get into Week 10, you should start playing your best football or starting on that upward trend towards your best football.”

With their victory, Ryan looked like a complete unit that can march well into December at the caliber they performed at in their regular-season finale. Denton Ryan finished with 481 yards of total offense, 4 takeaways and had Wichita Falls Rider searching for an answer to try and slow them down somehow.

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Quarterback Spencer Sanders churned out another spectacular performance by finishing the night 14-of-21 for 263 yards and three touchdowns and also rushed for 166 yards and a score. Wide Receiver Gabriel Douglas was the leading receiver on the night with 8 receptions for 139 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Emani Bailey rushed for two scores on 32 yards.

“We have a bunch of good kids and hard workers,” Henigan mused. “This is a special place. I’ve been all over the state and this is a special place. People that go here and around Ryan understand it.”

Both teams had their issues offensively to open up the game as neither team was able to get anything going on their first two drives. Both teams had turnovers on their opening drives and then followed their respective opening drives with punts.

After a sluggish opening from both teams, Denton Ryan’s offense would start clicking on all cylinders and looking like the offensive unit that has galvanized spectators and fans all year long. Denton Ryan’s first spark of the night came from none other than quarterback Spencer Sanders.

On Ryan’s third drive, Sander’s and the offense got their rhythm going and tuned out 21 unanswered points in the first quarter to have a three-score lead when the first quarter expired.

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Starting at their 17, Sanders only needed two plays to get Ryan on the board after he rushed for 15-yards then connected with Jamrion Robertson for a 68-yard touchdown pass.

The Ryan defense would force Rider to punt and once again the offense displayed their quick-strike ability with Sanders using his feet this time to go untouched up the middle for a 66-yard touchdown run.

The defense then got in the dominating performance following the offensive score when defensive back Rondarius McGarr recovered a fumble in the backfield to get Ryan’s second takeaway of the night and the scoop & score that gave Ryan a healthy 21-0 lead.

Not willing to end their regular season on a sour note and still plenty of game left to upset the AP ranked No.3 team in 5A for a share at the 5-5A district title, Wichita Falls Rider was able to stop the bleeding momentarily.

Quarterback Jorge Vargas went to a hard count that drew a handful of Ryan’s defensive players off sides that awarded Rider with a free play. Vargas scoping out from the pocket saw receiver Noah Randall downfield and hit him in stride with hardly any traffic near him for an easy 64-yard score that had Rider down 21-7 with 11:12 left in the second quarter.

Wichita Falls Rider then seemed to have something brewing after they got Ryan into a 4th and 30 situations that would have given them the ball back with a reasonable chance to cut the deficit.

Their momentum would be short lived however as the punt unit forced a fumble on the return that was recovered by Ryan and saw Spencer Sanders hit Gabriel Douglas for a 45-yard touchdown pass the very next play to go up 28-7.

From that point, it would be all Denton Ryan with Ryan pouring on an additional 28 points to seal Ryan’s undefeated regular season with an emphatic win that has Ryan heading into the playoffs with a substantial amount of momentum.

Jonathan Rodriguez covers prep and Southern Methodist University football for TexasHSFootball. Follow him on Twitter, @JonathanRod_7, and read more of his content here.

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