As sensational as Denton running back Coco Brown has been over the past season and a half, it’s unrealistic to think he alone will save the Broncos’ 2021 season.
He’s going to need some help, and against No. 1 Ryan’s starters on Thursday, there wasn’t any.
In a game that was out of reach by the end of the first quarter, Ryan’s defense made sure Brown didn’t get going and then watched its own offense find a long-overdue rhythm en route to a 55-28 win at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex.
Brown came into the night as the area’s leading rusher in Class 5A. Though he finished with 96 yards and a touchdown, he couldn’t manage a single yard before Ryan’s starters were pulled with roughly six minutes left in the first half. He finished the half with 38 yards and a 12-yard touchdown run. As a team, however, the Broncos (0-4, 0-2 District 5-5A Division I) had 25 total yards in that same span. That allowed Ryan (3-1, 2-0) to jump out to a 41-point lead by the break.
Defensively, the Raiders finished the night having forced three turnovers — including two interceptions for touchdowns.
“Our whole goal is to get better every week, and that was a big emphasis this week,” Ryan coach Dave Henigan said. “Not to take anything away from Frisco Reedy last week, but I thought we were flat in that game. I wanted us to play with some passion from the get-go, and then offensively, I wanted us to hit some big plays in the passing game. And we did.
“They played with emotion, and now we’ll go right back to work.”
Ryan now leads the all-time series with Denton 18-3. Denton’s last win over the Raiders was in 1999.
In Thursday’s game, Ryan needed just nine offensive plays to nab a 34-0 lead. That included back-to-back one-play drives. The first was capped by a 50-yard touchdown pass from Khalon Davis to Jordyn Bailey. Not even two minutes later, Kalib Hicks broke off a 32-yard touchdown run. Antonio Thomas then hauled in a 7-yard touchdown catch to cap a two-play drive, and Garyreon Robinson followed with a 22-yard touchdown run on another two-play drive.
And that was just the first quarter.
Hicks finished the night with 56 rushing yards and two touchdowns on just five carries. Davis attempted only seven passes but threw for 161 yards and two touchdowns in a half of work.
Bailey added two catches for 57 yards and a touchdown and was one of five receivers to catch at least one pass.
“Offensively, we did great,” Davis said. “We were coachable and practiced deep balls all game. We finally connected. It was nice to get everyone involved like that and give our players chances to make plays.”
To the Broncos’ credit, they did force four turnovers and got big second-half performances from Tristan Strange and Bryce Ashbaugh. Ashbaugh had five catches for 73 yards and a touchdown while Strange added 80 yards on six catches. Backup running back Roosevelt Wells also added 42 rushing yards and two scores. But all of that came in the second half after Ryan had effectively put the game away and turned the keys over to its backups.
Denton coach Billy Miller said the game plan was to spread the ball around early and take some pressure off Brown.
“We tried,” Miller said. “I know those guys and what they hang their hat on, which is playing great football in the box. I knew it was going to be tough sledding for Coco. I spent a lot of time last weekend trying to develop a plan that allowed us to take advantage of them packing the box to stop Coco. It was rough sledding all over the place, not just for No. 1.
“He was still able to do some stuff tonight, and it shows how dedicated he is to his teammates and coaches.”
The Broncos got the ball first coming out of halftime but almost immediately turned it over on an interception by Ryan’s Braeden Dozier, who returned it 54 yards for a touchdown. It was one of two interceptions Ryan returned for scores on the night. The first was courtesy of Texas commit Austin Jordan, who reached over a Denton receiver early in the second quarter to steal the ball and return it 45 yards for a score. That touchdown gave Ryan an insurmountable 41-0 advantage.
Ryan now has four interceptions returned for touchdowns on the year.
“A lot of kids played tonight, which is always good for team morale,” Henigan said. “Now we go back to work and get ready for a good Frisco Wakeland team. I’ve seen them. They’re good.”