Denton Ryan 17 – Highland Park 7

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Denton Ryan 17-7 Highland Park

Story of the Game: There was plenty of pedigree in this one as Denton Ryan, the 2019 state runner-up, took on Highland Park, which won three straight state titles from 2016 to 2018.

The first touchdown of the game was a stunning one as Texas commit Ja’Tavion Sanders made an improbable one-handed grab for an eight yard score off a perfectly lofted pass from his quarterback Seth Henigan to give Ryan a 7-0 lead just over two minutes in.

Later in the first quarter, Henigan and the Ryan passing attack struck again. Henigan found his receiver Billy Bowman Jr. in acres of space across the middle for an easy 64-yard touchdown to put Ryan up 14-0.

With the clock winding down in the first quarter, Highland Park showed it wasn’t going down without a fight. Quarterback Brayden Schager escaped pressure in the pocket and turned the play into a scramble drill, rolling right and finding his receiver Crockett Corwin for a 29-yard score to cut the Ryan lead in half, 14-7, with just 20 seconds to play in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, Ryan blocked a Highland Park field goal attempt midway through the period before tacking on a 34-yard field goal of its own as time expired to take a 17-7 lead into halftime.

From there, the defenses took over. Highland Park came up with a turnover on downs and an interception in the third quarter, but both times, Ryan’s defense stood tall and forced punts.

The story was the same in the fourth quarter as Highland Park came up with an interception with ten minutes to go, but Ryan’s defense rose to the occasion and responded by forcing a turnover on downs. The closing minutes saw Highland Park throw a late interception as Ryan held off the Scots to earn a 17-7 victory.

That victory means the Raiders are one step closer to avenging their heartbreaking 28-22 defeat to Shadow Creek in the title game one year ago. However, in order to get back to the grand stage and play for the state title, the Raiders will have to take down plucky underdog Mansfield Summit in an intriguing semifinal matchup.

Play of the Game: This was arguably the most impressive touchdown of the entire weekend. The strength and focus of Ja’Tavion Sanders defied belief as he boxed out a Highland Park defender to come up with an improbable one-handed catch for an eight-yard score to put Ryan up 7-0. The catch has made the rounds in the national media and helped set Denton Ryan on its way to another state semifinal appearance.

Sanders’ touchdown catch (Courtesy of Nick Harris): https://twitter.com/NickHarris247/status/1345119837719244802

Player of the Game: WR Billy Bowman- Both defenses deserve huge credit for their performances, but in a game of few touchdowns, Bowman provided a spark when Ryan needed it. He got behind the Highland Park defense for the 64-yard score that put Ryan up by two scores and finished the game with eight catches for 136 yards. His explosiveness will be vital as Ryan aims for the two victories that it needs to bring home its first state title since 2002.

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