ALLEN--Frisco Lone Star and Denton Ryan entered Saturday with identical, undefeated 14-0 records.
The Rangers were believed to be the more battle-tested with a pair of wins over three-time state champion Highland Park, as well as an impressive victory over Lancaster a week ago.
The Raiders, despite their perfect mark, were seen as a team that had not yet proven itself against the state’s elite.
That is no longer the case.
Denton Ryan exerted its will against Lone Star, doing what no other team had been able to do in slowing down their high-octane offense, and they made enough big plays of their own to claim a 35-7 victory in a Class 5A Division I state semifinal game at Eagle Stadium.
After three consecutive losses in the state semifinals, the Raiders (15-0) advance to the 5A Division I state title game where they will face Alvin Shadow Creek at 7 p.m. Friday at AT&T Stadium.
The Rangers (14-1) drove into Denton Ryan territory on each of its first two drives, but came away empty-handed.
On their next four possessions, they netted only 20 total yards as a scoreless game turned into a 28-0 deficit.
“In the first half, we hurt ourselves a little bit. We opened the game with a 12, 14 play drive and had some penalties and didn’t finish the drive and kind of the same thing on the next drive,” Frisco Lone star head coach Jeff Rayburn said. “ Against a great defense like that, you can’t come up short on those drives, that’s missed opportunities, but it is a credit to them, too. That’s a fantastic defense. You had two 14-0 teams and they got after our tail today and they deserved to win.”
The Raiders’ star players thrived in the spotlight on both sides of the ball.
Junior Ja’Tavion Sanders, a Texas commitment, caught five passes for 92 yards, including a highlight-reel 35-yard grab to set up a score, and he also recorded three sacks from his defensive end position.
Senior Drew Sanders, an Alabama pledge, caught four passes, rushed for 31 yards and a touchdown and was a force on defense, even with an interception return for a score negated by a penalty.
Junior Billy Bowman, Jr., who is also committed to Texas, had four receptions and made a perfect read on a 19-yard interception return for a touchdown that broke the game open at 28-0 with 9:13 left in the third quarter.
Lone Star, meanwhile, was unable to generate the offense that they had come to expect, as they were held to 265 total yards and committed four turnovers. A large Ranger contingent kept waiting for the big play, but the longest gain of the day was a 29-yard pass to Marvin Mims from Garret Rangel. Mims provided one of the highlights of the day for Lone Star, as with 10 catches for 127 yards, he became the career leader in receiving yards in Texas high school football with 5,485 yards.
“They got up on us and we couldn’t capitalize and counteract what they were doing,” Rayburn said. “They played their tails off and that’s why they are moving on.”
Lone Star avoided its first shutout since 2013 when Rangel threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Mims with just four seconds left, but they needed that kind of a result much sooner.
They thought they had it on the game’s opening drive, moving 42 yards in 11 plays, but Denton Ryan stuffed them on fourth down at the 33.
The Rangers quickly moved to the Raider 25 on their next drive, but Ahmad Terry thwarted the chance with an interception.
That turnover seemed to ignite the Denton Ryan offense, as they embarked on a 12-play, 76-yard drive that included a fourth-down conversion pass from Seth Henigan to Ja’Tavion Sanders and a 20-yard scoring strike to a wide-open Bowman to take a 7-0 lead on the first play of the second quarter.
The Raiders forced a punt and went right back to work with a 10-play march capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Emani Bailey to push the lead to 14-0. Bailey, who is committed to Louisiana-Lafayette, was the workhorse, carrying the ball 25 times for 146 yards and a pair of scores.
It stayed that way through halftime and while Lone Star was hoping to regroup and change the course of the game, it was instead Denton Ryan who seized firm control early in the third quarter.
Keyed by a big kickoff return by Ty Marsh, the Raiders took advantage of a short field and Drew Sanders bulldozed into the end zone from 6 yards out to make it 21-0.
Just three plays later, Bowman delivered his pick-6 and it was suddenly a four-score game.
Lone Star still held onto hope with 21 minutes still left, but turned the ball over on downs on its next drive at the Denton Ryan 21. The Raiders then chewed up nearly seven minutes on a 13-play drive with Bailey’s second 1-yard touchdown run of the night early in the fourth quarter extending the advantage to 35-0 and effectively putting it out of reach.
“We’ve had a lot of success throughout the last seven, eight years and we’ll continue to build upon it and we have those ultimate goals of going on and winning a state championship,” Rayburn said. “But I tell you what, I told these kids before the season started, I said this is a championship football team … I’m not guaranteeing a state championship, but I know this is a championship football team because of who these kids are, what they represent, how hard they work, so I couldn’t be more proud of this team and what they were able to accomplish, moreso the relationships in that locker room, because that is a special, special group.”