Rodney Webb admittedly doesn’t have much history in Denton outside of his last six months as Guyer’s head coach.
But even he knows the significance of Friday night’s rivalry matchup with Ryan, despite his best efforts to temper the hype.
Not only is it a battle for bragging rights and Denton football supremacy, it is also a showdown between two of the best teams in the entire state. The Raiders are the No. 1-ranked team in Class 5A Division I while the Wildcats are the No. 5-ranked team in Class 6A Division II.
Players on both sides know one another and played against each other in middle school.
And if that weren’t enough, Guyer and Ryan haven’t played since 2015 — setting the stage for a highly-anticipated cross-town showdown.
“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t going to be a special opportunity,” said Webb after Guyer’s 56-33 win over Hebron last Friday. “I don’t have a history in Denton, so I don’t feel it personally, but I know the kids know all of those kids. It’s the classic cross-town rivalry, so they’re going to be excited to play.
“The great thing about it is it’s a non-district game, so it’s not going to set either team back in their goal of winning a state championship.”
Webb reiterated that point again several times on Monday morning.
At the end of the day, he is approaching this game like any other contest on Guyer’s non-district schedule.
“If your goal is to win a state championship, this is just a non-district game,” Webb said. “If your goal is to beat Ryan, then you’re setting yourself up for failure post-Ryan. Again, I think I would feel the same way if I were the coach at Ryan. But at the same time, yeah, I think it’s good for the community. Any game that puts butts in seats and creates a stir is awesome to me. The term healthy rival is at play right here.”
Guyer and Ryan have played seven times since the Wildcats started playing football in 2006.
The Raiders lead the all-time series 4-3 and won the last meeting 31-28 in 2015. Ryan’s victory five years ago propelled them to the first of five consecutive district titles and their current 51-game regular-season winning streak.
Both teams are coming off a trip to their respective classification’s state title games last year — and both came up short.
And for Guyer, its goal this year is is simple: get back to AT&T Stadium and leave with the hardware.
“This game will not define the season for Ryan, and it will not define the season for Guyer — win or lose,” Webb said. “It’s awesome to have a cross-town rival to be able to play. There’s a lot of hype around it. I would always rather play and coach in games like this than the game that 200 people attend. It’s OK for our kids to be excited about this game, as long as they understand at the end of the day, when the game is over on Friday night, they’ve got to turn the page.
“It does not get us closer to our goals, win or lose.”
In Guyer’s first game under Webb last week, the Wildcats put up 547 total yards and scored 56 points in their new, up-tempo offense. Guyer went three-and-out on its first two possessions before rattling off 21-straight points in the second quarter.
Receiver Grayson O’Bara sparked the offensive outburst and finished the game with 118 yards and two scores on five catches. Guyer quarterback and Texas A&M commit Eli Stowers — who was playing in just his first game since injuring his knee in last year’s state final — threw for 199 yards and two touchdowns.
That offense will now be tasked with going against a stout Ryan defense that has four Division I commits in Ja’Tavion Sanders, Billy Bowman Jr., Ty Marsh and DJ Arkansas.
Marsh is committed to Houston, while Arkansas is pledged to Rice. Sanders and Bowman are both Texas commits, and it was Sanders who stole the show for the Raiders last week with his one-handed interception return for a touchdown.
“We recognize the level of talent they have on the field,” Webb said. “They are athletic. They are big. They are fast. They are well-coached. They have tradition. They have a lot of things going for them over there. But I would say this — we tend to not worry about the opponent. We worry about ourselves and about playing the best game we can play.”
Friday will be the first time Guyer and Ryan have met in non-district. Their previous seven meetings were all in district play or the postseason.
Webb is well-aware the stakes aren’t as high this time around, but he knows excitement will be in the air at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex.
“I don’t want them to act any differently about this game than any other game,” Webb said. “But I would imagine when the lights come on Friday night, they’re all going to be pretty [pumped] up.”