The Ryan Raiders kick off the Class 5A Division I playoffs Thursday when they host Granbury at 7 p.m. at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex, and players and coaches alike hope it’s the beginning of another long postseason run.
The No. 3-ranked Raiders have advanced to at least the fourth round in each of the past four seasons, including three straight trips to the state semifinals between 2016 and 2018. The goal is to take the next step by playing in their first state title game since 2010, but coach Dave Henigan insists the only way to get there is to pay attention to the here and now.
“Our kids and coaches know that we can’t overlook anyone,” Henigan said. “It’s playoffs; you only get one shot, and if you don’t play well, then you can get beat. Our whole deal is to worry about one day at a time and one game at a time.
“We’ve been right there the last several years. Our focus is on getting better every week.”
Ryan will face a Granbury (6-4) team that is coming off a 24-7 loss to Saginaw that snapped a streak of three straight wins for the Pirates. The Pirates’ six wins are a solid turnaround, as the program is coming off a two-win season from a year ago.
The Pirates have had a few players at quarterback this season. Kyler Gibson leads the team with 1,245 passing yards and 10 touchdowns. He’s also rushed for nearly 300 yards and five scores. But Austin Jinkerson was under center Friday night and was responsible for Granbury’s lone touchdown while completing 10 of his 18 passes for 102 yards.
The run game is led by the duo of Zach Watson (995 rushing yards) and Clayton Kracy (665 yards). Both running backs have combined for 21 touchdowns. Defensively, Keeton Derouen has 76 tackles with six sacks and three forced fumbles.
If history repeats itself, however, Ryan could be too tall of a mountain to climb. The Raiders haven’t lost a first-round game since 2007 and, including this season, are 65-4 (regular season and playoffs) since 2015. Their only losses in that stretch are to Highland Park (three times) and Allen.
Ryan is surrendering an average of 8.3 points per game and is scoring just more than 50 points per game. Seth Henigan has thrown for 1,893 yards and 27 touchdowns and has plenty of weapons in Alabama commit Drew Sanders and Texas commits Billy Bowman Jr. and Ja’Tavion Sanders. Emani Bailey has rushed for 831 yards and 12 scores.
“[Granbury] plays hard. Their offensive line is tough when they get on you, and their defensive line is good,” Henigan said. “When you get into the playoffs, everyone is good and well-coached. If we take care of us and play to our standard, then we’ll take our chances on Thursday night.”