The path to the Class 5A Division I state semifinals for Frisco Lone Star has not been an easy one, to say the least.
The Rangers’ road to an undefeated district title pinned them against some of the best competition Frisco ISD has to offer in Independence and Wakeland, as well as a star-studded crew in The Colony.
After going through the district slate unscathed, despite a close call from the Cougars, Lone Star then faced the daunting task of having to endure the Region II-5A gauntlet in the postseason.
A second meeting with the three-time defending state champions Highland Park, who the Rangers beat back in Week 3 in historic fashion, was inevitable as the two squared off in an epic rematch at AT&T Stadium in the third round — with Lone Star prevailing yet again, this time in overtime, 33-27.
Up next was Lancaster, a team headlined by a suffocating defense that had held three explosive offenses in The Colony, McKinney North and Independence in check throughout the first three rounds of the playoffs.
That didn’t matter to a hungry Lone Star squad, which went on to pour in 38 points on the Tigers’ defense, as they punched their ticket to the state semifinals for the first time since 2015.
A new challenge awaits Lone Star this weekend with another program which features high-caliber Division I talent all across the board in a Denton Ryan team making its fourth consecutive appearance in the fifth round.
Ryan comes in with an identical 14-0 record and for good reason. The Raiders’ roster is comprised of highly recruited standouts on both sides of the ball with do-everything star Drew Sanders (Alabama), running back Emani Bailey (Louisiana) and a pair of Texas commits at wide receiver in Billy Bowman and Ja’Tavion Sanders paving the way.
“I don’t know how to compare them to somebody else because there are so many moving pieces in football,” said Jeff Rayburn, Lone Star head coach. “But you can name somebody from over there and they are probably a top recruit. Those guys are good enough to play on both sides of the ball too, and it’s going to be a challenge.”
That unit of elite players, which includes sensational quarterback Seth Henigan, has yet to be truly tested so far in 2019.
The Raiders come in averaging just over 54 points per game, slightly ahead of Lone Star, and have allowed just 10 points per contest while dismantling opponents by an average margin of 39 points.
“We know it’s not going to be a pushover,” said Marvin Mims, senior receiver. “They’re 14-0 for a reason and have manhandled everyone they have played up to this point. We have played pretty much every type of team, but we haven’t really played a team with their build. But just like with Lancaster, they haven’t played a team like us.”
And that’s a valid argument that can be made in Lone Star’s favor – Ryan has not faced nearly the same level of competition that the Rangers have seen up to this point.
Not one of Ryan’s non-district opponents in Mesquite Poteet, West Mesquite and Keller Fossil Ridge finished the year with a winning record and the combined win total of those three teams this year was just eight games.
The district schedule for Ryan in 4-5A Division I wasn’t much better with three very winnable showdowns with Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD, among others — whereas Lone Star faced stiffer foes week in and week out with FISD, Little Elm and, of course, The Colony.
Region I didn’t offer much resistance either, with Ryan cruising to victories over Granbury, Lubbock Coronado and Abilene Cooper, whereas Lone Star paved its road to the state semifinals with wins over state-ranked foes from Highland Park and Lancaster, plus College Station program not far removed from a state title.
However, that isn’t Ryan’s fault, and at the same time, it took care of business like it should for a program poised to potentially hoist a state title for the first time since 2002.
“It’s going to be a challenge this week, but it’s always a challenge,” said Jaylan Ford, senior linebacker. “We know the stakes and the want is more in the fifth round of the playoffs.”
Kickoff between Lone Star and Ryan is set for 2 p.m. Saturday at Allen Eagle Stadium.