MANSFIELD, Texas – The expressions on the faces of Denton Ryan’s players after their 19-7 Class 4A Division I Region I semifinal loss to Waco Midway were blank.
Not many tears were shed and no yells of frustration were let out.
The team stood on the sideline of Mansfield’s Vernon Newsom Stadium at a loss for emotion.
“We shocked them,” Midway coach Terry Gambill said.
Nothing in the game plan was all that shocking to Ryan (12-1), as the two played in the regional semifinals last season, but no one could have known Midway’s rushing attack would tally 191 yards on arguably the top defensive front in the state.
Midway running back B.J. Kelly led the charge right through the middle of the Ryan defense, picking up 141 yards on the ground.
Midway (10-2) gained just 20 yards through the air.
“They’re a good football team,” Ryan head coach Joey Florence said. “B.J. Kelly is a good player. He’s hard to stop, and that surprised me.”
Midway controlled the pace of the game from the start and never relinquished it. The Panthers' opening drive was a microcosm of their offensive game as a whole: lasting 7:07 on 16 plays and ending with a field goal.
The irony of it all was while the Ryan defense had a disappointing showing in its effort to stop Midway’s ground game, the Raiders did not allow a single offensive touchdown.
That put the spotlight on Midway kicker Drew Owen, who connected on 4 of 5 field goal tries. His only miss was a block by Mario Edwards Jr.
Owen opened the scoring with a 24-yard kick into gusting winds, and he added another at the beginning of the second from 22 yards with the wind at his back.
His highlight was later in the second when he nailed a 51-yarder to put Midway up 9-0. While it was wind-aided, it cleared the crossbar by 10 to 15 feet.
Ryan pulled within 9-7 before the end of the half on a 4-yard run by Alex De La Torre, which was set up by a Trey Mohair interception.
The game was essentially put away in the third when Midway defensive back Orion Stewart nabbed his second interception of the day and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown and a 16-7 lead.
Owen hit his final kick with 3:30 to play from 29 yards.
Kelly said a chance to get revenge for last season's 19-10 loss to Ryan had been on the mind of the entire Midway squad since day one of the 2011 season.
The retribution advances Midway to the regional final against the winner of Saturday’s Waco Rider-Killeen game, also at Newsom Stadium.
After the game, Florence praised his senior class as one of the best he has ever coached and expressed pride in his team’s ability to take the loss with class.
It’s not the way Ryan expected to finish its season, but it’s hard to diminish the success of a 12-1 season, Florence said.
“It just wasn’t our day,” he said.