Defense lifts Denton Ryan over Waco Midway

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Jonny Paramore has made a career of returning interceptions for touchdowns.

Against Waco Midway on Friday, he made Denton Ryan's season with such a play.

Paramore iced the game with a 65-yard return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, highlighting an exceptional defensive performance that gave the Raiders a 19-10 win at Cowboys Stadium in the Class 4A Division I playoffs.

Ryan (13-0) advances to play the winner between Wichita Falls Rider and Birdville in the Region I final.

With Midway (12-1) driving and Ryan clinging to a 12-10 lead late in the fourth quarter, Paramore, nicknamed the Rattlesnake, stepped in front of a Ryan Smith pass and ran untouched for the score, sending Ryan's sideline into elation.

"They were running some switch route the last couple of plays," Paramore said of his interception. "My safety, Trey Mohair, told me it was coming. I just jumped in front."

It was Paramore's fifth interception returned for a touchdown this season and his second interception of the game.

"I've never coached a kid like that," Ryan head coach Joey Florence said. "He's scored five touchdowns. That's unbelievable. I've never had a kid do that."

Ryan's defense smothered Midway throughout the game. Midway took a 10-7 halftime lead after a scoring a touchdown set up by two big pass plays on a drive late in the second quarter.

Outside of that, Ryan didn't give Midway anything. It held running back B.J. Kelly, who had more than 1,700 rushing yards coming into the game, to 36. Midway didn't score in the second half and was held to just 52 yards after the break.

"I know there are some great defenses out there, and I'm not trying to offend anybody, but if there's a better defense then we better look out because those guys are pretty good," Florence said.

And the points Ryan's defense scored were the difference in the game. Defensive end Ty Hook, who had two sacks in the game, pulled Smith down in the end zone for a safety to open the second half, cutting Midway's lead to 10-9. Paramore's touchdown added another seven to the nine for which Ryan's defense was responsible.

"Right before I went out there, they were telling us about turnovers," Hook said of the safety. "I was hoping to make a play and it happened."

Paramore's first interception set up Ryan's opening score in the first quarter. It gave the Raiders the ball at the Midway 30-yard line. Quarterback Nash Knight hit Sam Johnson in the end zone from 3 yards out, giving Ryan a 7-0 lead.

Ryan's offense sputtered for the rest of the first half but found its game late in the third quarter when Knight was called on to throw short passes to leading receiver Michael Cudd, who was largely ignored in the first half.

"We try to get the ball to Michael," Florence said. "He's one of our better players. That's something we tried to do after halftime."

The drive set up a 32-yard field goal by Colton Gutierrez early in the fourth, giving Ryan the lead back, 12-10, before Paramore's touchdown.

"Nash is just taking care of the football," Florence said. "He's such a smart kid. he's doing what we're asking him to do. He's doing his job."